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A Vineyard Experience
By Rev. Gordon Williams

NOTE: Rev. Williams appeared for several years with Rev. David Mainse on 100 Huntley Street. He then pastored Good Samaritan Church, Kitchener and is now an evangelist who travels extensively across Canada.

After having had many inquiries about the Toronto Vineyard ministry, I decided that I should go and see for myself what was happening that was attracting so much attention and publicity not only here in the Toronto area but nationally and internationally.

As I entered the Vineyard meeting room my attention was drawn to a young man in his mid-thirties who was standing at the back of the room. His eyes were closed, his arms were extended in front of his body and were moving up and down very quickly, very much like the movement of an old water pump handle. He was humming. I didn't think too much about this because this physical movement was what the old time Pentecostals called "one of the excesses" by which people tried to pump up the experience of the Holy Spirit. His whole body was shaking violently and apparently out of his control. After taking a seat, a young woman sat down next to me and began to make the same physical gyrations with her body. As I looked around the room, I observed many people going through the same attempt to "get in the Spirit" This appeared to be an acceptable and, as I was to later find out, an encouraged phenomenon.

The meeting began with a time of "Praise and Worship". People certainly felt free to raise their hands in praise. The choruses and songs were well-led and there was certainly an atmosphere of expectation. The auditorium was filled to capacity. After the singing was finished, we were led in prayer.

One of the leaders then explained that he was going to call upon several people to share a testimony about what the Lord had done for them since they came to Vineyard. The first person that he invited to come to the front was the young man who had caught my attention when I first came into the meeting. He was apparently a Baptist preacher from England. He went to the front began to speak and after a few sentences fell to the floor roaring and screeching.

The leader reassured us that everything was all right. This roaring, he explained, was caused by the Holy is the roaring of the lion of Judah. This was apparently a common occurrence in their meetings. His explanation surprised me because I had encountered this "roaring" hundreds of times in meetings and church services over the years. And, I can assure you, it was not caused by the Holy Spirit, except in that it was the anguish or the torment (Mk. 5: 7) that the demon or evil spirit was experiencing as it possessed or harassed the person.

I was more than surprised at the lack of "discerning of spirits". This man was followed by three more people who as they started to give their testimonies fell to the floor roaring and screeching. The leadership just laughed and praised the Lord and went on with the meeting-

The preacher that evening was from a Vineyard in the United States and was apparently a member of the American leadership. He explained that although he had prepared a message, he felt led to set it aside for a better one that the Lord had given him. As he started his message, he explained that "I used to be educated but now I am anointed". I have no problem with a preacher being led by the Holy Spirit to set aside a prepared message, hopefully inspired by the Holy Spirit to be replaced by another message that is inspired by the Holy Spirit. However, when a person explains that he is setting aside his intellect and uses the Holy Spirit for the excuse to deliver a questionable and disorganized message, I have a problem with that because "the anointing of the Holy Spirit is not exclusive to our education". In fact, the Holy Spirit uses our education in His guidance.

And to further prove that his new message was from the Holy Spirit, the speaker punctuated his message from time to time with a brief shaking of his head, shoulders, and arms accompanied with the rolling of his eyes. "The anointing of the Holy Spirit is still with me," he repeated in some manner or other after each episode. Proof of the anointing is in the message and not in any particular shaking physical movements or manifestations that may or may not accompany the delivery of a message.

The speaker concluded his message by telling us that the Holy Spirit was now moving in our midst and anyone who felt any shaking, trembling, or numbness was to understand that those feelings or manifestations were from the Holy Spirit and those who were experiencing those things should raise their hands and a member of their ministry would come and pray with them. Many people began experiencing this uncontrollable shaking of their bodies. Many fell on the floor roaring and screeching. Some were laughing hilariously. I walked freely around the auditorium observing what was happening.

Now, for people looking for a religious experience, there is no doubt in my mind but that they received one very much unlike they would have in any evangelical, charismatic, or pentecostal church. Although, there would be some parallels.

A simple look at this Vineyard worship might lead most people to conclude that although it is different from the way than most churches conduct their worship, it is probably all right. It is probably from God. After all, people have come from countries all over the world to experience what is occurring in the Vineyard ministry so that they can take it back with them to their home churches.

I also attended a Wednesday afternoon session at a Pastors and Church Leadership Conference on November 17. The agenda was Praise and Worship, some prayer, and the Conference Speaker was a former Dallas Seminary professor and Vineyard leader who was now pastoring a Presbyterian Church. His message and response made me realize that many of those in attendance had been battered, possibly burned-out, although the speaker indicated that any pastors who had suffered burn-out had no one to blame but themselves. His message was well-received and concluded with a would-be word-of-knowledge-invitation to have prayer for healing for various health problems. The response was good. Again, throughout the meeting there were various people shaking uncontrollably of which several fell on the floor.

I believe that the Toronto Vineyard ministry has to be evaluated and tested Scripturally. We cannot just right this ministry off as some people attempted to write off the believers on the Day of Pentecost by saying that they were drunk. But we must evaluate it and test it to see what is of God and what is not of God. As James said about the mouth, "Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so". Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh" (Jas. 3: 10 - 12). The same can be said about worship and ministry. If there is both blessing and cursing coming from any ministry then it must be examined in order to see why.

1. Uncontrollable shaking is not a work of the Holy Spirit.

According to the Fruit of the Holy Spirit the opposite is the case: self-control (Gal. 5: 23). In any movement of the Holy Spirit there are often physical responses to the presence and work of the Holy Spirit but these are quickly brought under control by an act of the will. During the early days of Pentecost, uncontrollable shaking was seen as an excess of the flesh or a counter-work of the enemy who tried to interfere with the legitimate working of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, this is being encouraged in the Vineyard circles as a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. During the past few months, I have had to deal with people who have attended the Vineyard meetings and have started to have this uncontrollable shaking. They suspected that there was something wrong but were told just the opposite. I have had to take authority over these people and cast out evil spirits (demons) out of them so that the shaking would stop. Usually they had gone to a meeting wanting to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit. Instead they were taken over by this violent and uncontrollable shaking and they could not speak in tongues.

Last September, at Kennedy Road Tabernacle such a person responded to an altar call that I gave at a Friday evening service. The woman wanted to receive ministry. Before I could get to her she had fallen on the floor and was shaking violently. I commanded this spirit to leave her and encouraged her to speak in tongues. After some effort she did. I did not get an opportunity to speak to the woman that night.

On Friday, November 18, 1994, I preached at Kennedy Road Tabernacle again. The same woman was there and again, when I issued the altar call for ministry, she came forward for prayer. When I went to pray for her she was shaking but not as badly as she had been before. Again, I took authority over the evil spirit and commanded it to leave, and she was set free. She fell under the power of the Holy Spirit and experienced peace and self-control as she lay there praying in tongues.

The woman waited to talk with me after I was finished praying with everybody who had wanted prayer. She wanted to know if I could explain to her what had been happening to her. Everytime she went to a Vineyard meeting she came away with an evil spirit. The first night that I ministered to her she not only did not have any control over her body, she was prevented from speaking in tongues. Plus, when I encouraged her to speak in tongues, she said that she was filled with anger. After our first meeting at K.R.T., she went back to Vineyard and came away with another evil spirit. She went to Kitchener to see Rev. Howard Ellis at Jacob's Well Ministry for deliverance. She was set free. She then went back to Vineyard and came away with another evil spirit She came to K.R.T. and I set her free again. I encouraged her not to go back to Vineyard or else she would have the problem again. There is a "transference of spirits" occurring at the Vineyard meetings. They are obviously unaware of the wiles of the devil.

2. Testimonies were prevented from being completed.

The Scripture is abundantly clear that a person's testimony is very important and very powerful. Jesus wants us to be able to share our testimonies so that others can believe. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1: 8). A witness shares his or her testimony. "And they overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." There is only one person who would prevent a testimony from being shared by using a counterfeit sign. And, that of course, is the devil.

3. People fell on the floor roaring like a lion and screeching and laughing.

The explanation for the roaring, of course, was that it was being caused by the Holy Spirit. "It's all right. It's just the lion of Judah roaring." There is only one Lion of Judah: Jesus Christ. When He roars, He speaks clearly the word and judgement of God. He does not cause people to roar. He causes them to worship God. He causes them to praise God. Peter warns us about someone who roars today: "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Pet. 5: 8). At Vineyard his roaring is welcome.

I have no problem with people who fall down under the power of the Holy Spirit or are slain in the Spirit, as long as it is caused by the Holy Spirit and results in ministry. This is a part of my own ministry. But when a person does fall down under the power of the Holy Spirit (Is. 28: 13; 2 Chron. 4:14; Acts 9: 4; Rev. 1: 17) there are positive results: salvation, baptism of the Holy Spirit, gifting by the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, a miracle, a need is met, and the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. S: 22 -23) become operative.

I have no problem with laughter either. Many people need to have their joy restored, "for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8: 10). However, as Ecclesiastes (3: 4) reminds us, there is "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance." But when things get out of their timing such as laughter becomes uncontrollable and become disruptive and the preaching of the Gospel is prevented, then laughter is not from God.

4. No normal invitation for ministry is given.

Vineyard seems to want to operate on a sort-of Word of Knowledge basis. When the Word of Knowledge (1 Cor. 12: 8) is the main invitation given, people who have other prayer needs require encouragement. It is normal to give a broad invitation so that people can understand that Jesus wants them to receive more than only the Word of Knowledge. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Is. 1: 18). The invitation is a time to reason with people for salvation, rededication, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, miracles, God's plan, direction, financial needs. The key is "whosoever" comes will not be turned away.

5. There is no call to repentance.

This is a requirement in order to receive anything from Jesus Christ. Paul makes this abundantly clear: "For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Cor. 7: 10). When the people heard Peter explain what had occurred on the Day of Pentecost, they asked him and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Then Peter said to them "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2: 38 39). Repentance must be the theme of any and all invitations for ministry. At Vineyard it is noticeably absent.

6. Because of the demonic attacks that are occurring in the Vineyard ministry, it is obvious that there is no Gift of Discerning of Spirits (1 Cor. 12: 10).

They also do not know how to examine themselves and their ministry Scripturally. They would do well to follow the example of the Bereans of whom it was said, "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17: 11). I fear that there are very few if any involved in the Vineyard who have the ability to do this.

7. There appears to be a reverse blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in the Vineyard.

During Jesus' ministry on earth, people looked at him and misidentified the Holy Spirit as being an evil or unclean spirit (Mk. 3: 21 - 30). This was what Jesus called blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. At Vineyard, the leadership is looking at these manifestations of people roaring or howling, shaking uncontrollably, and misidentifying them as the Holy Spirit when they are either the work of an evil spirit or the flesh. This exposes people to a religious experience but not to one of God's Holy Spirit.

8. Unscriptural teaching.

The Conference speaker made a strong point in encouraging people to use their gift of the Holy Spirit. He threatened the listeners with the statement, which like a lot of popular religious sayings sound right but aren't, that "If you don't use your gifts (of the Holy Spirit) you will lose them." To which most people applauded and agreed. The only problem is that, scripturally speaking, this is not true. Paul tells us just the opposite, "For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11: 29). Also, it was quite apparent at this pastors conference that there was a poor understanding about the role of a pastor in relationship to his flock of sheep or congregation and the place of suffering in a Christian and a pastor's life. Paul's viewpoint is quite different, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" (Philip. 10 - 11). "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16: 24).

9. The Biblical "Signs Following"

(Mark 16:17 - 18) and the order given by Paul (1 Cor. 14: 26 - 33) are not to be seen at Vineyard. They, unfortunately have their own "signs" which happen to be the uncontrollable shaking of the body, the roaring and shrieking, as well as people running and jumping uncontrollably as well. Dancing in the Holy Spirit is a beautiful thing to observe and to experience. It is not disruptive and cause distraction from worship.

10. The importance of preaching

is downplayed at Vineyard. I have been told by many people who have been there that there are often times when there is not time for the preaching of the Word. According to what Paul says preaching is just about the most important thing we can do in our worship services. "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Cor.58).

"How then shall they call on him in who they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" "So faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10; 14, 17). Preaching has got to be central in any ministry. Any down-playing of its importance will not be from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

My view of the Vineyard Ministry is that there seems to be an attempt to make a contemporary presentation of the Gospel in such a manner that in trying to avoid what the leadership of Vineyard sees as mistakes and problems observed and experienced in more traditional church structures and approaches to worship, they have tried to develop a modern substitute. The result is that they may have produced a hybrid monster that may end up being more dangerous and destructive than the ones they have rejected.

There is a reason for the Church structures that are described in the Bible. Those structures are there because they are designed to handle sinful people and the wiles of the enemy. They fail only when people stop using them in a Biblical way, stop following the instructions in the Bible, and stop listening to the Holy Spirit.

They are there so that if properly used the result will be just exactly what Jesus wanted: Salvation, maturing of the Saints, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, and Healing. But when not used as directed in the Scriptures, chaos results and the devil runs rampant in our midst, yes, even in the midst of our places of worship and ministry.

Today, pastors and Christians are flocking to Vineyard. One pastor told me that he had gone to Vineyard twelve times. I asked him why he had done that. "I want to get it and bring it back to my church so that I can have a revival in my church." I asked him if he was a saved man. "Yes," he replied. I asked him if he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. "Yes," he replied again. "Then, you have all that you need in order to have a revival. So start using what you have. Start giving altar calls at your worship services. Start praying with your people for salvation, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, healing, deliverance, or whatever they need."

Pastors want to have some kind of "magical dust" that they can sprinkle on their congregations and have an instant revival. "Instant revivals" are the result of faithful ministry carried on often under severe criticism. Instant revivals often take hard work, hard praying, and a long time. Sometimes, instant revivals are the result of a pastor calling in the other members of the 5-fold ministry that Paul describes in Ephesians 4: 11: apostles, prophets, evangelists, and teachers.


1. Vineyard Ministry is a battlefield in which the one side, that is, the Christians, cannot tell who the enemy is with the result that people who go there for ministry receive mixed blessings.

2. The leadership has accepted non-biblical signs as being signs of the Holy Spirit (shaking, roaring). when upon close examination they are from either the flesh or the enemy. The uncontrollable signs of shaking and roaring are very reminiscent of a group called "Christian Spiritualists" who have entered into a new revelation of God. One Christian man who went to a Vineyard meeting asked me, "Why couldn't the Holy Spirit do something that is not in the Bible?" The Bible was given to us for our protection and it still sets the parameters of Godly worship which appear to be missing in the Vineyard meetings. I believe that we need to learn the lesson of Micaiah the prophet to whom God gave a vision to show him how he was going to deal with 400 false prophets by sending a lying spirit to deceive them because they would not listen to the Word of God (1 Kings 22).

3. Some people receive ministry that is of God.

4. Other people receive ministry that is not of God and they go away possessed or harassed by demons.

5. This ministry is blinded to the works of the devil because of a wrong approach to ministry. It's focus is not on preaching and a call to repentance. Because of the lack of a good invitation ministry they do not minister to the real spiritual needs of those who go there.

6. This ministry appears to be an alternative to traditional churches which will show those churches the right way to carry on Christian ministry.

7. There appeared to be very little use of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit by the people who came to worship.

8. People who attend services at the Vineyard are having a religious experience. Religious experiences are addictive. Christian services are not usually very attractive because they call us to repentance, to self-denial, to spiritual warfare from which we will often grow weary. Whoever said that when you come into the presence of the Holy Spirit you would always have a nice and comfortable experience was misled.. When we come before God it can be a frightening and uncomfortable experience because it stirs up a godly fear. It causes conviction of sin. It can make us want to run away and not stand in His presence. Like Isaiah in the Temple, when he saw God sitting on His throne, high and lifted up, he wanted to run away. He was deeply convicted of his own sin. "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Is. 6: 5). Now, that is an experience of God! After God has dealt with our sin, who can express fully the joy of our salvation?. Then, His presence is desired. Worship is anticipated with expectation.

However, all religious experiences do not always come from the God of the Bible. The god of this world also gives religious experiences. And, contrary to what people might think, when the devil gives people a religious experience, it is not usually a bad or frightening one either. People worshipped Baal in the Old Testament, not because Baal gave them a bad worship experience, but just the opposite. He gave them a religious experience that did not require repentance and which allowed people to live by the works of the flesh.

Because of the Vineyard approach to ministry, their worship services expose people to the demonic more than many of the alternatives from which they have come. Many people who have attended Vineyard meetings become hyper-critical, judgmental, and disruptive in the churches from which they have come and especially so in churches that are open to the Holy Spirit and allow the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be used by their people.

9. People, Christians and non-Christians, and pastors should be discouraged from getting involved with Vineyard. Vineyard does not provide the "Simple Alternative" for ministry. Many pastors have gone back to their churches and have attempted to inaugurate the Vineyard approach to ministry with the result that they have become even more discouraged. This approach does not develop a strong Biblical foundation for the Christian life. Unfortunately, pastors still evaluate their ministries by the numerical response and acceptance they receive. One pastor told me "They must be doing something right because of all the people who go there." Jesus never evaluates our ministries because of the numbers of people that we attract to our services but rather by our faithfulness to God and the Word. I do not know of anybody who could preach the gospel better than Jesus did. Numerically, he was not really well accepted. The response to His ministry was "the cross" as well as those who were saved, of course.

10. Workshops and seminars need to be developed so that pastors and church leadership can be taught the ways of the Holy Spirit, how to evaluate their ministries Scripturally, how to discern the work of the enemy, how to operate in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and worship God in Spirit and in Truth.

I believe that the leadership of Vineyard is sincere and well-meaning and that they want to serve God, but unfortunately they are not prepared because of the lack of teaching and knowledge and experience. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children" (Hosea 4: 6). We need to pray for the Vineyard leadership and those who go there that they will be protected and that they will not be deceived but will seek the truth in the Scriptures.

The "Toronto Blessing" is a dangerously "mixed blessing" .