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Bill Jackson: The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard

 

Bill Jackson, The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard (Cape Town, South Africa: Vineyard International Publishing, 1999), 419 pages.

New movements need their stories told and Bill Jackson, pastor of Black Mountain Vineyard Church in San Diego, has told the story of the Association of Vineyard Churches. This is an “insider” perspective because Jackson has been a part of the Vineyard movement since early in its history. Jackson’s book serves as an official history in that it is published by and sanctioned by the Vineyard leadership.

The title is the main theme in Jackson’s portrayal of John Wimber and the Vineyard movement. The middle ground is the attempt to retain the biblical foundation of Evangelicalism and the openness to the Spirit of Pentecostalism. Bill Jackson’s Vineyard history documents the ebb and flow of this challenge to balance the “Word and the Spirit” (p. 39). This “quest” is a difficult one as the history of any revivalistic and renewal movement will attest.

Jackson drew upon personal contacts, letters, interviews, audio and video-tapes, specialized web-sites, religious magazine articles and a few published works. The result is a sympathetic but sufficiently objective look into Wimber’s rich and complex life and ministry and the church renewal movement that he helped to launch.

Bill “Jax” Jackson

How this book struck me as a classical Pentecostal reviewer was to see a series of parallels between Vineyard history and Pentecostal history (and in particular the Assemblies of God of which I am a member). Let me enumerate a few similarities. First, revivalistic/renewal movements fear organizational loss of fervor. Jackson cites Max Weber’s theory of the routinization of charisma of religious movements (pp. 18, 349). As Vineyard moves into a new generation of leadership “who knew not Joseph [John Wimber]” will it sustain its growth and vitality? Second, both Vineyard and Pentecostals are “Jesus” people. For Vineyard it was Wimber’s reliance upon George E. Ladd’s theology of the kingdom as a springboard for doing the works of Jesus today. For Pentecostals it was the adoption of A. B. Simpson’s four-fold gospel of Jesus as Savior, Baptizer, Healer, and Coming King. Third, the educational thrust of both Vineyard and early Pentecostals was upon the training of pastors and church leaders. Vineyard, to this reviewer’s knowledge, has not founded a liberal arts college or seminary but has developed regional training programs for its leadership. Early Pentecostals founded Bible institutes to train its gospel workers. Fourth, God uses flawed people for His glory. For the Vineyard movement it was people like Lonnie Frisbee and Paul Cain. For Pentecostals it was Charles Parham and Aimee Semple McPherson. Fifth, crises that occur early in a movement’s story help to define its subsequent history and mission. For Vineyard it was the prophetic restoration ministries in Kansas City and the unusual spiritual phenomena in Toronto that shaped their middle-ground position of spirituality. For Pentecostals it was the role of glossolalia and the nature of the Godhead.

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Category: Church History, Winter 2007

About the Author: Malcolm R. Brubaker, Th.M. (Westminster Theological Seminary), M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), B.A. (Evangel College), is Professor of Bible at Valley Forge Christian College in Phoenixville, PA, extension faculty for Assemblies of God Theological Seminary at VFCC, and a Ph.D. candidate at Regent University (Virginia Beach, VA). Malcolm has experience serving as a pastor and is the author of numerous articles and papers on biblical theology and homiletics, including the Ezekiel (1999) commentary for the Complete Biblical Library (World Library Press).

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