Hap & Di's Storysenior pastors' testimony
It all began with a baby. Every church has a story to tell. Our story begins back in the early seventies. In 1972, while students at the University of Illinois, Happy and Dianne Leman became Christians through the ministry of the Apostolic Christian Church where they had both been raised as preachers' children. Throughout the next five years, they experienced a deep hunger for personal and spiritual growth as disciples of Jesus. During this time, they also struggled with the problem of infertility. After extensive medical tests, doctors told them that children were medically impossible without major surgery, and even then, chances were slim.
During their desperate attempts to have children, a fellow insurance employee told Happy that God was still doing miracles. While initially reserved, Happy and Dianne (by now a school teacher), decided they had nothing to lose by investigating this claim. Contrary to what they had always been taught in church, they began to discover that God was still healing the sick and moving by miraculous power in response to believing prayer. They were filled with the Holy Spirit in May, 1977. This launched them on a journey of intense study and seeking after God.
In April of 1978, Dianne miraculously conceived a baby through the healing power of God. Even the doctors at Carle Clinic, who had not seen her in the preceding year, agreed that they could take no credit, and that it was a miracle. The conception and birth of JD were real confirmation points of God's power and willingness to intervene in the affairs of His family. JD has since been followed by four other miracle children--AJ, Julie, J, and Cory.
The early years, In the fall of 1977, God spoke to Happy and Dianne independently that they were to begin teaching the Bible. Assisted by Ben and Tina Hoerr, they opened the Good News Center in May of 1978. Their original purpose was to teach the Bible, the principles of life in the Holy Spirit, faith, and healing. Twenty-five people attended that first meeting in the back room of Happy and Dianne's home at 2204 Seaton Court. As people continued to bring their friends to the Bible study, the ministry grew beyond the capacity of the Leman's home.
The group rented, and later purchased, an empty church building at 701 South Lincoln (now the U of I's Oregon Computing Center) to hold the two weeknight Bible studies. A Sunday evening praise and worship service soon followed, and a Sunday morning service was added a short time later as a church began to emerge. The ministry offices and meetings remained at the facility until the end of 1984, when the church built a new facility on a ten-acre tract of land at the southeast corner of Lincoln and Bradley Avenues in Urbana. This new building was dedicated in January of 1985, and still serves as the worship center today.
While Good News Center has changed its emphasis from time to time, its focus and vision have always remained constant: to see John 14:12--"that we would do the same and greater works" of Jesus--come into reality. Through the years, people who have hungered for authentic Christianity and the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit in the church have felt at home there.
The Vineyard Movement, in 1974, after working as an assistant pastor at the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, and planting a church called Jesus Chapel in El Paso, Texas, Kenn and Joanie Gulliksen moved to Los Angeles to begin a ministry that had been on their hearts for several years. Starting as a small Bible study, the fellowship quickly grew into a church. God prophetically gave the name "Vineyard" to those initially gathered together. In the next few years, literally thousands received Christ through the ministries of that church. Musicians, artists, hippies, surfers, and a host of others experienced a genuine move of the Holy Spirit in what has since been referred to as the "Jesus-people movement."
In the spring of 1982, John Wimber and several other pastors led their churches into relationship with the Vineyard, as their vision of a church that believed in intimacy, worship, and the power of the Holy Spirit coincided with that of Kenn's original Vineyard. It was obvious that God had called John to pastor the pastors and to train and encourage men and women to pursue what God had given them. Consequently, Kenn handed over leadership of this emerging association of churches to John in 1982.
About the same time, the Holy Spirit gave John Wimber a vision of 10,000 churches across America who would want to be part of this new movement. Some of them would be raised up through church planting, others wold be adopted into the movement, and still others would simply be close friends and work side-by-side with the Vineyard. Today there are approximately five-hundred and fifty Vineyards in the United States, seven hundred others in different countries around the globe, and several thousand churches of all denominations that are in close relationship with the Vineyard movement.
In 1987, the various Vineyards formed a formal church association called the Associate of Vineyard Churches. The churches are self-governing, but overseen and encouraged on a volunteer basis by full-time pastors who serve as Regional and Area Pastoral Coordinators. Since 2000, Bert Wagonner has assumed the responsibilities as the National Director of the AVC.
Our Adoption, In 1981, Happy and Dianne began to sense that the needed a freshness in their approach to the ministry. Their unending commitment to John 14:12 kept them continually on the lookout for others who might have that same vision. In early 1982, they prayed that God would lead them to the right people, the right experiences, or the right information so that they might clarify what they were to do as a church.
In late 1982, a Christian Life magazine arrived at their home which described the ministry of John Wimber and his new course at Fuller Seminary entitle "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth." Happy and Dianne immediately realized that they had found something that was fresh, unique, and could quite possibly be the answer to their prayers.
In the fall of 1983, Happy and Dianne attended their first Vineyard Pastors' Conference. The conference revolutionized their lives in two ways. First, they saw the necessity to plan their ministry. Second, they were impacted by every member of the church being released to minister to one another by the Holy Spirit. While they had always given a prominent place to the Holy Spirit in their church life, the Vineyard model was unique and different. (Over the years, we've worked diligently to release this type of ministry among those who call the Vineyard home.)
In the spring of 1984, the Holy Spirit spoke to Happy and said that Good News Center was to be a Vineyard. From that point on, Happy and Dianne carefully took one step at a time, leading the church to a willingness to become adopted by a larger association of churches and lose their independent identity.
By late 1985, it had become quite clear that the people were fully embracing Vineyard values and direction. In early 1986, Happy taught a series of sermons on Sunday morning entitled Our Place in The Kingdom. This culminated in our formal adoption into the Association of Vineyard Churches and a subsequent name change to Vineyard Christian Fellowship on March 2, 1986.
Since our adoption into the Vineyard, we have continued to experience God's favor in a variety of ways. But please remember that we are a people in constant change as we try to find and follow God's will for us.
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