The History of Vineyard USA
Blue Ridge Vineyard Church is part of a growing association of over 750 churches in 47 countries worldwide, including over 500 churches in the United States. Vineyard Christian Fellowship began inauspiciously in 1974 as a young man named Kenn Gulliksen led a small fellowship of burned-out Christians in the Los Angeles area. Those first meetings included a large amount of singing and worshipping God in an attempt to experience him as a living, life-changing friend and not just as a theory, which had been the experience of all-too many in the group.
Their little fellowship grew quickly as people got wind of the fresh work of God that seemed to be happening in their meetings. By 1982, when they began looking for someone who could give shape to this rapidly expanding movement of now seven churches, they heard about a young pastor named John Wimber, who had been experiencing some remarkable things in his own right. A former professional musician, Wimber had moved into the ministry after experiencing some dramatic works of God.
After spending several years training ministers at Fuller Theological Seminary, Wimber and his wife, Carol, began meeting with a small group of Christians who—much like those under Gulliksen’s leadership—were looking for a fresh experience of God that seemed more like the dynamic, supernatural experience of following Jesus Christ that they read about in the New Testament.
By 1982, more than a thousand people were bursting the seams of the high school gym in which they were meeting. That year, Wimber took over the leadership of Vineyard churches and shortly thereafter Gulliksen moved to Boston to start one of the first East Coast Vineyards, now in Framingham, MA. John Wimber died in 1997 from a brain hemorrhage, leaving behind a congregation of almost 7,000 people and an association of churches reaching more than 100,000 people.
Vineyard churches have become known for helping people find a fresh experience of God in an informal, contemporary setting. Many Vineyard songs are sung worldwide, across many denominations, in keeping with a vision not only to build up Vineyard churches, but to bless and encourage as many churches and denominations as possible.