Power Evangelism. By John Wimber with Kevin Springer. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1986. 201 pp. Cloth, $14.95.
This controversial book brings a new slant on evangelism from John Wimber, the founder and principal figure behind the “signs and wonders” movement. He comes from an evangelical Friends background, but in this book promotes charismatic-style practices for evangelistic purposes (Wimber prefers to be identified with non-charismatic evangelicals). Wimber says this display of the Spirit’s power is “key for effective evangelism: combining the proclamation with the demonstration of the gospel.” The demonstrations include the casting out of demons, healing the sick, and raising the dead (p. xx).
The book gives the personal journey of Wimber as he “discovers” these “charismatic” principles of power that assist in evangelism. He defines power evangelism as
a presentation of the gospel that is rational but that also transcends the rational. The explanation of the gospel comes with a demonstration of God’s power through signs and wonders …. It usually takes the form of words of knowledge … , healing, prophecy, and deliverance from evil spirits (p. 35).
Wimber provides a statement of his gospel in the first chapter under the subtitle, “The Gospel of the Kingdom.” He says:
Proclamation of a faulty gospel will produce faulty or, at best, weak Christians. Such is the case all too often today. Instead of a call to the lordship of Christ and membership in his kingdom, people are hearing a gospel that emphasizes self: come to Jesus and get this or that need met, be personally fulfilled, reach your potential. This, however, is not the costly kingdom gospel that Christ proclaims: “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35).
The problem of low commitment and weak Christians is all too often found in modern churches, but the solution to this problem is not found in adding to the Gospel message. Wimber’s gospel presents the idea that salvation costs men something and makes no mention of trusting Christ’s work on the Cross or His resurrection.
Another concern is that Power Evangelism lists case after case in which God is said to give someone a “word of knowledge” of some important information with the results that people are healed or commit themselves to God. It sounds very biblical to have God communicating with people through direct revelations, but John 1:18 and Heb 1:2 speak of Christ as the perfect revelation through whom God has spoken. Also, 2 Tim 3:17 says that the Scriptures are all that is necessary for living a godly life. The post-resurrection experience of the apostles and the early Church seems to present directrevelation as the exception not the rule (e. g., Paul on the Damascus Road or visions and revelations of 2 Cor 12:1–10; even Acts seems to be the “Certain Acts of Certain Apostles,” namely Peter and Paul).
Wimber’s book focuses on the need for power in evangelism as expressed by words of knowledge, healing, prophecy, or deliverance to energize modern-day evangelistic efforts. In doing this he not only moves away from his evangelical roots in handling miraculous sign gifts, but at times presents a confused or faulty gospel message. He also departs from the sure anchor of God’s Word and presents the experience of himself and others as the basis for reality.
Power Evangelism attempts to wed evangelical theology with charismatic practice. What is so alarming is that many people today are more concerned about the use of miraculous gifts than a clear Gospel message that is true to the NT.
Huntsville Bible Church