This book by John Wimber is a must read and a great introduction to the world of power evangelism. John Wimber was the founder and International Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches, and he died peacefully on November 17, 1997 in the presence of his family. He was sixty-three years old. His book, Power Evangelism, has now been a widely accepted primer to power evangelism, and the term "power evangelism" has been used to describe "a presentation of the gospel that is rational but that also transcends the rational (though it is in no way 'irrational' or anti-rational)." The book hosts many testimonies that encourages any believer to see that power encounters can be a part of his life too.
Power vs. Non-Power Evangelism?
The term "power evangelism" has some implications to it. Does it mean that other forms of evangelism do not have power? Does the power of the Holy Spirit only manifest through signs, wonders, and the gifts of the Spirit? Romans 1:16 tells us that the gospel of Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. The question would then be on how the gospel carries such power, and Wimber writes that the answer lies within what salvation means, i.e. the coming of the kingdom of God. Power is defined as "the ability, the strength, the might to complete a given task" and authority is "the right to use the power of God".
Evangelicals assert that the proclamation of the gospel message has intrinsic spiritual power, which is an assertion that Wimber does not deny. In fact, any system or force that must be overcome for the gospel to be believed is cause for a power encounter, and unbelief is part of that system or force. However, Wimber's point is that power evangelism was one of the normal kinds of evangelism in the early Church and has surfaced throughout the history of the Church with remarkable results. Hence, we should pay more attention to this form of evangelism, especially when it reaps results more efficiently and effectively then other forms of evangelism.
Evangelicals have also historically been concerned with the evangel, i.e. the "good news of salvation," but have not looked closely enough on the medium by which the evangel is communicated. Pentecostals and charismatics have been accused in the past of focusing too much on the gifts of the Spirit, healing, prophecy and intimate worship that evangelism had taken second place and the lives of believers are not grounded theologically. I believe that what we need to come to an understanding is that evangelism and the good news of salvation has to be preached, but the medium of this preaching is not just mere words, but in the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit through the gifts of the Spirit, signs and wonders. Wimber brings this point across through numerous testimonies that the most effective way of evangelizing is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Power evangelism would bring the spiritual-decision process on the Engel Scale from a -10 to a -2 in a matter of minutes, as compared to long discussions, arguments and persuasions. In fact, in most third-world nations, a careful apology of the gospel does not bring a person to Christ as compared to power evangelism. Unless they know the reality and power of God, there is no need for them to convert. Hence, such power evangelism necessary, and is the proclamation of the kingdom of God in the fullness of its blessing and promise (which has also been called 'salvation').
Do you need to be Baptized in the Spirit?
I am encouraged that Wimber did not claim that power evangelism is only for those who have been baptized in the Holy Spirit. I recognize differing theological viewpoints and Wimber's writing is able to hold the tension between Pentecostal and Evangelical views. The testimonies in this book does not claim that the people who were used of God in power evangelism were baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the opening account of Scott does show that he was baptized in the Spirit, and the closing account of a Methodist pastor showed that he had been empowered with the Holy Spirit.
This would lead to the question as to whether one needs to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be used of God for power evangelism. Wimber's own testimony seemed to show that one does not need to be first baptized in the Holy Spirit for power evangelism. He described his evangelistic efforts from 1963 to 1974 as "under 'normal' circumstances... but occasionally I led someone to Christ in an unusual way," having remarkable insights into their lives (word of knowledge). It was not clear whether he was baptized in the Spirit or not at that time, but I am left to believe that even one who has not been baptized in the Spirit can be used of God for power evangelism. Even Wimber's definition of power encounter does not specify the baptism in the Holy Spirit as criterion, and likewise we should not.
What does the Bible show us?
When looking at the life and ministry of Jesus through the gospels, we find that He spent a large part of His ministry raising the dead, healing the sick and casting out demons. Wimber asked himself three important questions - (1) How did Jesus evangelize? (2) How did Jesus commission the disciples? (3) How did the disciples respond to the great commission?
The gospel of the kingdom has two aspects to it, (1) proclamation, and (2) demonstration. We begin to see that there is no dichotomy between evangelism with signs and wonders in the Bible. Jesus' job description can be found in Isaiah 61:1-2 or Luke 4:18-19, and He did not just preach, but demonstrated the kingdom. When John asked if Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus' response was not with logical proofs, but by demonstration of power in what that He had done (Matt 11:2-5). When Jesus commissioned His disciples, it was a commission to do exactly what Jesus had done. The disciples responded by doing as Jesus did, and the people around knew that they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). We can see this even when Peter raised the dead in Acts 9:36-40 that it was a reflection of Jesus raising the dead in Mark 5:37-42. It is through this that the "greater works" (John 14:12) of Jesus may be fulfilled. I believe that the greater works are not in terms of the quality, but in terms of the quantity.
Why is it that many Christians today still do not move in the power of the Holy Spirit? Wimber suggests that the "proclamation of a faulty gospel will produce faulty or, at best, weak Christian." He goes on to claim that the faultiness lies in the consumer gospel, where the seeker seeks for his needs to be met, rather then the costly gospel of Christ's death on the cross. Does this mean that everyone who comes to Jesus with a need would end up a weak Christian? I believe that for whatever reason a person comes to Jesus, it is a starting point, but the issue is on the church and discipleship, where the emphases on Christianity is focused on being good (behavior) rather than being God's. Wimber testifies that when you become God's, you will become good.
Christianity has to also go back to being a relationship with God where each person learns to hear from God, and not a list of do's and don'ts. We have often taught that God speaks through His Word, the Bible, and that is not wrong, but there needs to be an increasing emphasis to hear from God Himself today. Wimber notes that most Christians miss out on exciting and powerful experiences in their lives either because they are not listening to God, or because of their inattentiveness, God is silent.
Wimber also mentions that Christians are too often searching for methods, formulas and principles that will open the power of God to them. However, the heart of power evangelism is not a method, formula or principle, but it is to obey God when He leads and guides. Wimber says that divine appointments are an integral part of power evangelism. "Divine appointments are occasions on which God chooses to do his works through our obedience, faith, hope and love. They are His works, acts to which we add nothing." His testimony of Kerry, I believe, is similar to what many of us have gone through in the past, i.e. sensing we should speak to a particular person on a word we sense is coming from God but we give all the reasons for not delivering the message. Hence, power evangelism is the conscious co-operating with the Holy Spirit in our evangelistic efforts, even if it seems absurd or may cause embarrassment.
Wimber came to the conclusion that if an experience such as healing was commonly found in Scripture, but yet not part of his own experience, something had to be wrong with his approach. I am greatly encouraged by Wimber's testimony of what he went through, and in similar fashion, it encourages us to keep pressing on to see God move through us.
Our Worldviews Affect Our Actions
Wimber gives a very important and interesting section on worldviews. Worldviews are defined as "an explanation of how and why things are as they are, and how and why they continue or change... the basis for evaluation, for judging and validating experience... provides psychological reinforcement for a society's way of life... [and] provides integrating and adapting functions for new information, values, philosophies and experiences." No worldview is perfect, and every worldview has blind spots. Because the western worldview has an 'excluded middle' of an inability to see how religion and science interact, this same 'excluded middle' includes the influence of angels and demons on everyday life, the Holy Spirit's intervention in divine healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual gifts. We need to change our worldview to having a Christian worldview with an eternal perspective, an awareness of power and evil influences, and a Biblical concept of truth. Because our worldview affects everything we think or do, including our theology, we need to be aware of what our worldviews are, how they affect us, and the need to consciously change them to align ourselves to how God sees things.
I am encouraged by the tenacity of John Wimber, who prayed for 10 months without a single person getting healed, and that is the kind of tenacity that Christians need to press in towards.