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Testimony: How Bill Medley Led John Wimber to Jesus Christ

The stories of how people come to know Jesus as Savior are often both simple and amazing. That was the case with John Wimber, former producer of the Righteous Brothers, and how he began his journey to finding Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

I was so blessed to hear this story, quite by chance—or more accurately, by providence—a few months after I retired from the United States Army as a chaplain. I was in Branson, Missouri, where I had been invited to sing at the Branson Gospel Music Convention during the week of July 14-17, 2009.

I arrived on Sunday, July 12, at the airport in Springfield, Missouri, rented a car, and began driving south to Branson. All along the way, I kept seeing pictures of Bill Medley on billboards. He was performing for the entire summer at the Moon River Theater in Branson, filling in for Andy Williams who was on vacation. Andy owned the theater, but Bill was the only entertainer whom Andy let fill in for him.

Hours later I arrived in Branson and checked into my hotel room at the Hilton at the convention center. I found out that day that soundtracks had to be on CD, not tape. I immediately phoned recording studios and made reservations to have mine transferred to a CD the next morning. So, Monday morning about 9:00 I drove through downtown Branson on the main street to the other side of town and into the countryside to the recording studio, had both songs transferred from tape to CD, and then headed back to the convention center.

Left to right: Bill Medley, McKenna Medley (daughter), Jim Linzey, Darren Medley (lead singer of Paul Revere and the Raiders), and Paul Revere at the Moon River Theatre (July 16, 2009).

When I got to the corner of the main street to begin my trek through all the traffic, I noticed an IHOP on the corner and thought, “This is my opportunity to easily get to the restroom.” So, I pulled into the parking lot, opened the door to IHOP, and walked in, and there, first booth on the right sat Bill Medley. His back was toward me, but I could see the side of his face. I thought, “This can’t be happening.” I walked down the aisle and went right by him and kept going. I thought, “When I leave, I’ll walk back the same way, then I can see his face to make sure that it’s Bill,” even though I knew it was him.

When I came out of the restroom, I was determined to greet him. I walked down the same aisle, and about eight feet from his booth our eyes met. There was no escaping! So, I boldly walked to the side of his table, crouched down at eye level, and asked, “Are you Bill Medley?”

“Yes,” he said.

“You and I have someone in common,” I said.

“Who?” he asked.

“Jack Colman.” Bill’s heart melted as an expression of love came over his face. “I know he was your vocal coach. He was mine, too,” I said, “and Jack used to tell me all about you.”

Bill was visibly stirred by memories, and then he shared wonderful stories about the spirituality of Jack and Jack’s wife, Sarah Jepson Coleman, who had co-written Portraits of Vision with Tommy Barnett. I was well acquainted with Sarah as well. When I was a student at Fuller Theological Seminary, where Sarah’s brother, Dr. Al Jepson, taught, I house sat for Jack and Sarah, and I sure enjoyed the tray of peanut butter cookies with Hershey’s chocolate kisses that she left for me.

Then I said to Bill, “You and I have someone else in common.”

“Who?” he asked.

“John Wimber,” I replied.

Again, Bill’s face melted with love as he spoke of John and Carol Wimber with great compassion, and shared how John was his and Bobby Hatfield’s producer and performed with them in concert on the keyboard.

After I told Bill that I studied Signs and Wonders under John at Fuller Theological Seminary and was on John’s large ministry team at the Anaheim Vineyard, Bill said, “Do you know how John came to know God?”

“No,” I answered.

“One day, John asked me, ‘What can you tell me about God?’ and I humorously replied, ‘You mean, Ray Charles?’

“Then John pointed to the sky and said, ‘No, the Great One!’”

Bill then witnessed to John about the Lord. While John did not receive Christ immediately, this prompted him to continue thinking about God until he received Him.

We can lead someone to the water, as Bill in this sense led John to God, but it does not mean that person will receive and drink of the water at that time.

I was in utter amazement that after hearing about Bill from Jack and Sarah decades earlier, and studying and ministering under John, here I was, crouched beside Bill at his table at IHOP learning how my former pastor and mentor came to Christ.

I told Bill that I was in town to perform at the Branson Gospel Music Convention that week, and he asked me if I would like to come to his concert at the Moon River Theater. I replied that I would, and he said, “The tickets are $50.” I replied that I would be happy to come, and he gave me the phone number to his road manager, whom I phoned as soon as I returned to the Hilton. The road manager was also a born again Christian, and we fellowshipped for about an hour on the phone. Then he said, “Your ticket will be waiting for you at the box office window, free of charge.” I profusely thanked him for the blessing.

After my performance at the Branson Gospel Music Convention, I went to Bill’s performance a few nights later. During Bill’s performance, he pointed at me several times and told the audience how he and I both knew some of the same people. He also promoted his Gospel CD that night and sold it at the table after his performance.

I was so blessed to have this encounter with Bill Medley and learn how he was instrumental in leading John Wimber to Jesus.

 

James F. Linzey studied Signs and Wonders under John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary and ministered under John on the Anaheim Vineyard’s Large Ministry Team. He studied voice and performance under Jack Coleman and is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible.

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Category: Living the Faith, Winter 2021

About the Author: James F. Linzey is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible translation. His graduate education is a degree in religious studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. His undergraduate degree from Southern California College is a BA in Biblical Studies with an emphasis in religion. He is the author of numerous articles and books. He is a speaker, recording artist, State Chaplain for the California Military Officers’ Association, and retired Army chaplain. MilitaryBibleAssociation.com. Wikipedia.org/wiki/James_F._Linzey. Twitter: @JimLinzey

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