Friday, December 30, 2011

Destroying Discernment: Mike Bickle and What Makes a False Prophet

Introduction

Michael Youssef once said: "The wolf absolutely hates the watchdog who protects the sheep." One of the greatest signs of a wolf is when someone wants to get rid of any level of discernment, or at the very least belittle or minimalize that which had previously served as discernment. Anytime someone wants to attack the standard which outlines "A is not B because of Y," their views should immediately be called into question. There are plenty of historical examples of this with false prophets. For example, Mohammad claimed to be giving revelation in line with the Torah and Gospel, and yet told his followers not to bother reading Christian scripture as they had a perfect revelation in the Quran.

Of course, most false prophets and teachers don't outright say "Let's lower our levels of discernment" - nor should we expect them to do so. The false teachers are those who appear in sheep's clothing, but on the inside are ravenous wolves (Matt 7:15). That is why discernment is so important - it gives us an ability to figure out when we're dealing with a wolf disguised as a sheep. This is why, for example, we should get worried when Doug Pagitt says we shouldn't use the Bible as our final source of authority, or when Rob Bell teaches that it's far more important to tell a good story than it is to represent God's word accurately. Again, neither of these men will outright say "Oh hey guys, lower your discernment so I can introduce some false doctrine, all right?", yet when you get to the heart of the matter, that is what they are doing. Doug Pagitt, in fact, will claim he's not doing what we think he's doing, then proceed to confirm our fears by teaching precisely that (for example, saying that he doesn't believe Jesus is just an example, then going on for the next few pages teaching that Jesus is just an example). I've compared this to the villain of Don Bluth's An American Tail, who is a cat disguised as a mouse, and when he's revealed to be what he is at the end tells the mice: "C'mon, who are you gonna believe? Me, or your own eyes?" Again, no wolf is going to admit to being a wolf in sheep's clothing (some wolves may be delusional enough to even think they're sheep), but if we throw out even a few methods of discernment, it gets harder and harder to identify who is a wolf and who is not.

That is why, as I began to research the background and beliefs of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City (IHOP-KC) as well as its founder, Mike Bickle, I felt a sense of worry growing within me. This was because I noticed that, on several levels, Mike Bickle was likewise attempting to harm our sense of discernment. When you followed through to the logical conclusion of why he was doing so, it was obvious that Bickle's intent was to give far greater legitimacy to his ministry and prevent possible criticisms from enemies.

The following are three major areas I noticed, over the course of my reading and listening to various sermons, that Bickle and his IHOP-KC staff were attempting to lower our level of discernment. I will then review their opinions up to scripture (and at times common sense) to review if they stand up to God's standard for ministry.

#1: It doesn't matter if prophecies are not accurate

Perhaps the most infamous of Mike Bickle's teachings on prophecy is the one which says that New Testament prophets are permitted to be wrong. This is not entirely unique to Bickle's work at IHOP-KC, as he and his fellow Kansas City prophets had been recorded teaching similar things long before.
One group of so-called prophets in Kansas City demonstrates how far the abuse of prophecy in the charismatic movement has gone. A recent book touting the group became an immediate international best-seller. Hundreds - perhaps thousands - of churches worldwide are now patterning prophetic ministries after the "Kansas City Prophets."

These men, all associated with a single church - formerly called Kansas City Fellowship, now called Metro Vineyard Fellowship - say they don't like being labeled "prophets." They prefer to call themselves "prophetically gifted." In other words, they don't believe they hold an office of authority like the Old Testament prophets. Nor do they claim infallibility. On the contrary, all the Kansas City Prophets admit they have prophesied falsely...

[Bob] Jones's 1989 Shepherd's Rod prophecy included a novel explanation about why so many modern prophecies go unfulfilled. Jones claimed:
[God] said, "If I release the hundred-percent rhema right now, the accountability would be awesome and you'd have so much Ananias and Sapphiras going on that the people couldn't grow - they'd be too scared." But He said, "If it was on target, it would kill instead of scaring the people to repentance." . . .This is what He told me, so I figure if I hit two-thirds of it, I'm doing pretty good.
Bickle added, "Now the two-thirds, you know when Bob first said it I said 'Two thirds?' He said, 'Well, that's better than it's ever been in this nation up to now, you know. That's the highest level it's ever been.'"

In other words, these so-called prophets claim they have a word from the Lord, but the odds are one in three - at least - that it will be false? No wonder their prophecies throw so many Christians into hopeless confusion. [pg. 78-79; Charismatic Chaos, 1992]
Therefore, according to Mike Bickle and his peers, prophesy is essentially like a game of baseball: it doesn't matter if you get a few strike outs so long as you eventually hit a home run.

Many, when first encountering this teaching, will rightfully turn to what scripture says regarding false prophecies:
"But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?' - when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." [Deu 18:20-22]
And again:
My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and who give lying divinations. They shall not be in the council of my people, nor be enrolled in the register of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. [Eze 13:9]
Scripture is clear in this matter: if a prophet claims to speak from God and for God, and yet what he speaks does not come true, then the prophet is lying and is not sent from God. They are a false prophet. In like manner, those who prophesy falsely will be judged quite harshly by God. It seems, at this point, those at IHOP-KC no longer have room to speak.

However, Mike Bickle has an explanation for this. Namely, New Testament prophecy is different from Old Testament prophecy. In his book Growing in the Prophetic, Bickle writes:
The character of New Testament prophets and prophecy is, however, somewhat different from that of the Old Testament. Some people have difficulty with the idea of modern-day prophets and prophecy because they are looking at them through Old Testament paradigm. [pg. 50; Prophetic]
He explains further:
Unlike the Old Testament ground rules for prophets, where 100 percent accuracy was required upon the penalty of death, the New Testament doesn’t require the same standard of its prophets. [pg. 41; Prophetic]
The reason New Testament prophets are capable of being wrong is because: 1) God's message is not crystal clear (often being mere "subtle impressions"); 2) New Testament prophets will add their own words in to fill in the gaps left by God's vagueness.
God conveys to our mind thoughts that we communicate in contemporary language. They are a mixture of God’s words and man’s words. Some “prophetic words” may be 10 percent God’s words and 90 percent man’s words, while others have a greater revelatory content [pg. 37; Prophetic]
And again:
It is difficult for some to accept the idea of prophesying by faith according to the subtle impressions of the Holy Spirit with the chance of missing it and giving a wrong prophetic word. The reason, of course, is that they have failed to understand the transition in prophetic ministry. While they clearly see other aspects of the Old Testament changing under the new covenant, their understanding of prophetic ministry is still based on an Old Testament model. [pg. 54; Prophetic]
A bizarre example of this comes from Bickle's work with the Kansas City prophets.
Bob Jones has an amazing gift of prophecy, but he says that he tends to miss it on interpretation and application. One time Bob gave a person a word along with the phrase, "By the end of the year." Well, the end of the year came and the prophecy had not come to pass. I went back to Bob and questioned him about it. It turns out that "by the end of the year" was not a part of the revelation.

"Well," said Bob, "why would the Lord give it if it weren't going to happen by the end of the year?" [pg. 26; Prophetic]
Mike Bickle calls this "missing it on interpretation and application," but I'd like to call it for what it is. If you order your son to tell your daughter to clean her room, and he tells her "Mom and dad said clean your room and mine," what has he done? It's a little phrase called...lying. Bob Jones outright lied to the person. What's more, Bickle doesn't show any sign in the book of being shocked by this, nor does he question Bob Jones's leadership ability. Instead he basically shakes his finger and says, "Oh Bob! You be careful now!" The fact that Bob Jones prophesied not only falsely but added lies to what were supposed to be God's word doesn't even seem to faze him. In most churches I've been in, if I had done anything similar - even if with good intentions - I would have received some harsh rebukes and church discipline from my elders.

Here's the immediate question we should be asking from all this: just why does Bickle want to validate false prophecy? Or, to be more fair to his position, why does he still want validity for prophetic ministries even if false prophecies come from them? The answer is because, in the past, he and the Kansas City prophets with whom he worked had been proven to be false prophets. It was a string of false prophecies, in fact, that became one of the reasons John Wimber, of the Vineyard Movement, began to distance himself from the prophetic movement begun by Bickle.
Wimber bit hard on the prophetic bait, his own son being delivered from drug addiction through a word from Bob Jones. When Wimber's meetings in London in 1990 failed to bring the type of revival expected from a prophecy by Cain, Wimber felt embarrassed and began to distance himself from Bickle and the restorationnist thesis. Bickle himself had been embroiled in fighting accusations of false prophecy and aggrandizement. At the time his church had come under the Vineyard banner, becoming Metro Vineyard in Kansas City. He was later acquitted of most charges, and admirably accepted responsibility for the others. When it was all said and done, Wimber led the Vineyard back to its missional, church-planting roots, and Metro Vineyard eventually relinquished the Vineyard name and became Metro Christian Fellowship. [pg. 137; Church, Identity, and Change, 2005; all emphasis mine]
When you've given false prophecies and people are beginning to question your legitimacy, what do you do? The easy solution: teach that New Testament prophets are different than those of the Old, and in the new covenant it is perfectly fine for prophets to be wrong because they sometimes add their own words into the prophecies.

This might indeed appear a simple explanation, given most of the prophetic discernment passages are in the Old Testament; but the absolute silence in the New Testament regarding possibly inaccurate prophecies ultimately works against Bickle. I might ask, for example, where in all the New Testament there is even one single example of man's words being intermingled with God's words? Don't bother picking up your Bibles, because you will find none. Nowhere do we find an apostle adding to God's words and thus creating error. Nowhere do we find a New Testament prophet adding to God's words and introducing error. Nowhere do we find a New Testament prophet struggling with "subtle impressions." Nowhere do we find New Testament writers mentioning Christians doing any of the previous. Nowhere do we find anyone - save perhaps false teachers - adding to God's words and introducing error. Bickle wants us to minister like the apostles, and yet teaches things seemingly foreign to the very work of the apostles.

Permit me to give an example of New Testament "prophecy". On the way to Rome, Paul warned the centurion that a storm might endanger the ship and all those aboard (Acts 27:9-11). It comes true (Acts 27:13-20). Paul then tells all those aboard that, according to the words of an angel, the ship will be lost, but their lives will be saved and they will land upon an island (Acts 27:21-26). It comes true (Acts 27:39-44).

Now let's try imagining this story with Bickle's standards applied. Imagine if no storm had happened, and Luke later asked Paul, "Paul, what's the deal? I thought you said we were going to run into trouble," to which Paul replied, "Well, I guess I misinterpreted those subtle impressions, sorry." Imagine if, instead of landing on Malta, the survivors were picked up by a passing vessel, and Paul said, "Oh! Well, the part about the island wasn't in the original prophesy, I added that in there." Can you imagine any of this taking place? What would that do to those being ministered by Paul? How would it paint Paul as a man?

Bickle will attempt, in his books and sermons, to explain that prophecy is a matter of vague interpretation by going to verses not dealing specifically with the accuracy of prophecy. Let's now turn to what scripture, specifically the New Testament, really says about prophecy and man's interaction with the prophetic.
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [2 Peter 1:20-21]
Peter says in verse 20 that no "prophecy of scripture" was a matter of one's own interpretation, and then expands on why this statement is true in verse 21: it is because no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man. There is no idea here of someone adding to God's words or reinterpreting them in such a way that what God intended to be said doesn't get said. Most commentators discuss how the original Greek of "carried along" (φερόμενοι) demonstrates that God is in complete control - not in the sense of robots, mind you, but that those who give prophecy are not simply making things up as they go along. What God wants to be said will be said, and in the way He intends it to be said. God is not simply the starter of prophecy, but the sole driving force as well. Nowhere does scripture teach that there's a 10/90 mix between God's word/ours, and neither does Peter leave any room for that in these two verses.

Perhaps most ironic in all this is that, given Mike Bickle's near maniacal obsession with end times events, he seems to have forgotten what God said to the apostle John at the end of the book of Revelation.
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. [Rev 22:18-19]
While many people read "this book" as being the Bible, it is more accurately referring to the Book of Revelation, as it speaks of "the words of the prophecy." God warns the reader that if he adds or removes words to this prophecy, they will be accursed. Yet, given Bickle's own standard in regards to New Testament prophecy, that should not be an issue. After all, how many times have those following Bickle and his staff prophesied falsely? How many of them (such as Bob Jones) have added to the words of God's prophecy, or taken words out? Why shouldn't they likewise heed these warnings? Some might argue that these verses are referring solely to the Book of Revelation. However, that still leaves us to ponder why God is therefore applying Old Testament standards to New Testament prophecy if, according to Bickle, the Old Testament standards are no longer applicable. It also forgets what we learned from 2 Peter 1:20-21 - namely, prophecy regarding scripture or otherwise is not a matter of man adding to God's words or taking away. "Scripture" prophecy and "non-scripture" prophecy has no difference in regards to whether or not they can come true.

Now might I point out that, according to this standard Bickle has put into place, any false prophecy could have simply been the result of "mixing" God's words up with our own. If someone speaks a word of prophecy, how do we really know whether they've spoken to God or they're just completely lying?

Need an example? Harold Camping! How does one know whether or not Harold Camping really did receive revelation from God what the end time date would be? Perhaps Camping simply added too much into God's word. Maybe God really did give revelation to Camping, and Camping really is a prophet, and people are being too hard on him for the three failed prophecies. After all, didn't Camping admit there was error on his part after May 21, but that God was still going to bring about an end to the world? He admitted that he had created error, but insisted that God was still giving this as revelation. Why should we disbelieve him? Why should we assume God is not giving him special revelation? After all, he's just following the same standard Mike Bickle uses. A standard which, as we've now seen, only serves to give legitimacy to false prophets.

Might I also point out that, again logically speaking, this turns God into a victim of fatalism. What do I mean by this? God wants to deliver a message to someone, or to a group of people, or to a church, etc., but the chance that they would receive the message accurately is harmed by the creature He is using. There is absolutely no precedent for this. Moses and Jeremiah attempted to complain their way out of delivering prophecy, and God rebuked them into doing it. Jonah attempted to flee giving prophecy to Nineveh, but God made certain he did it...even if it meant spending a three day voyage inside a fish. Again, as the language of 2 Peter 1:20-21 makes it clear, when God wants something to be said, God will make certain it is said. Prophets are reliant upon God; not God upon prophets.

As we've demonstrated in this section, scripture is crystal clear about those who desire to call themselves "prophets" or "prophetically gifted." If you prophesy falsely, you're not hearing from God, and you're a false prophet. Mike Bickle and company have prophesied falsely. QED, they are false prophets. To teach that prophets in the church can be wrong is only to cover up the fact you're a false prophet and hide this reality for the sake of your personal ministry.

#2: It doesn't matter if the moral life of the prophet is not perfect

A second source of discernment Mike Bickle takes away involves the moral standing of those with the prophetic gift. One example:
The fact is that God's power and revelation flowing through people is not necessarily a sign that God is pleased with them in other areas of their lives. Sometimes the prophetic gifts will continue to operate even when there is an inner crumbling taking place in their private lives [pg. 106; Prophetic]
And another:
God's gifts are freely given as a sign of His mercy and desire to bless His people, not as His approval. Don't invalidate all spiritual gifts that work in spiritually immature people. [pg. 107; ibid]
Of course, no Christian is perfect. A Christian is, by definition, simply a justified sinner. I myself am a sinner, and if one were to record every thought or temptation my heart had endured simply while writing this post, they would probably be shocked. We are not calling for Christians to have 100% outward perfection like the Pharisees of Christ's time demanded, nor are we calling for all ministers of God's word to have spotless pasts. We are also not saying that one is justified by their moral standing alone. However, what we are calling for is that men who claim to have regenerated hearts display evidence of regeneration.

Perhaps what is also troubling about this is knowing from Bickle's background just what kind of immorality he has dealt with. One of the most infamous examples is Bob Jones, Bickle's fellow Kansas City prophet who, it was discovered, had been compelling women to perform sexual favors in exchange for prophecy. Bickle and his peers, however, assured followers this did not invalidate Jones's prophethood:
[John Wimber] publicly disciplined a prophet named Bob Jones for using his prophetic powers to "manipulate people for his personal desires, sexual misconduct, rebelling against pastoral authority, slandering leaders and the promotion of bitterness within the body of Christ."

Wimber made it clear, however, that Jones's guilt did not impugn his giftedness. Although Wimber had once informed constituents that he judged Cain on the basis of his personal character, not his prophetic competence, he now instructed them to judge Jones on his prophetic competence, not his personal character. He warns them that judging Jones's sexual sins should not translate into judging Jones's seer status. Counterfeit Revival leader Mike Bickle agreed. While acknowledging that "the pain and trauma" of Jones's victims "was unbearable," he agreed that the anointing on him "was greater than ever." [pg. 165-166; Counterfeit Revival, 2001]
To be perfectly frank, this is disgusting. A supposed Christian leader who causes "pain and trauma" in a person's life that proves "unbearable" cannot, by definition, even be a Christian, let alone a Christian leader. I can only wonder how many of Bob Jones's victims who endured "unbearable pain and trauma" would agree that he has "seer status" and a great "anointing" from God.

Regarding a Christian's attitude towards sin, the apostle Paul wrote:
In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices [Col 3:7-9]
He likewise wrote:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. [Gal 5:19-24]
The apostle John wrote: "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (1 John 4:6). If there is no fruit of the Spirit, there is no Spirit. If there is darkness, there is no light. If there is no light, there is no Christ, and therefore the person has no "anointing" of which to speak.

Many people, including Bickle, ignore all these passages and jump to more allegorical examples. They bring up Samson, who was not the most moral man in the Old Testament and yet was used by God to judge the Philistines, or Saul, who was made king and yet lived many years in complete error. In doing so, they forget two things:

1) Imperfect men in the Old Testament were still judged for their sins. Samson's death, while noble and self-sacrificing, was in many ways just as much a judgment against him for his sins as much as it was against the Philistines he killed. God likewise brought judgment upon David even after his repentance for the death of Uriah. God didn't permit men to get away with sin on a shallow reason such as "He's under an anointing." Scripture even clarifies that at the time of Samson's capture "the LORD had left him" (Judg 16:20). Samson was not under a "greater anointing" - any "anointing" given to him was at that moment taken away. Bickle admits that God may eventually bring judgment upon a person, but that doesn't hide the fact that the person has great sins that need to be addressed, and hence a leadership position that needs to be questioned - something which Bickle seems to want us to avoid. His presentation seems to be one of "stay the course" regardless of the individual teacher's morality.

2) That God can "draw a straight line with a crooked stick" does not mean the stick itself is praiseworthy. God used the treachery of Joseph's brothers to save thousands upon thousands from starvation - does that mean Joseph's brothers were under some kind of "anointing"? God used Assyria to judge Israel and Babylon to judge Judah - does this mean Assyria and Babylon had special "anointings"? Judas was used by God to hand Christ over to the authorities - does that mean Judas had a special "anointing"? Even if we want to argue "God is using this person!", my immediate question would be: "All right, but in what way?" Read what the apostle Paul wrote on the matter:
The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. [2 Thessalonians 2:9-12]
While the coming of the "lawless one" is said to be the "activity of Satan," Paul likewise makes it clear that God is using the lawless one, even if through secondary means. That is, God is permitting the lawless one to perform "power" and "false signs and wonders" with "all wicked deception" as a judgment upon those "who are perishing" because of their refusal to "love the truth and be saved." It clearly says that God is sending a "strong delusion" so that these people will believe what is false and be condemned. False teachers are just as much a judgment against their followers as they are against themselves.

I might also bring up what the apostle Paul wrote regarding the morality of Christian leaders:
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. [1 Timothy 3:1-7]
And again:
This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. [Titus 5-9]
Paul writes that Christian leaders must be "above reproach," mentioning specific sins (which many of the Kansas City prophets were charged with). Some might interject here: "Ah, but Paul is talking about elders/overseers, he's not talking about general ministry leaders or prophets." Any one who leads a ministry, however, takes up the mantle of an elder/overseer, and therefore must be held to the same accountability that the standard church leaders are. God the Holy Spirit, speaking through the apostle Paul, made it clear that there are standards for Christian leaders, and it doesn't matter how great their "anointing" is - the Holy Spirit's inspired text trumps spiritual pragmatism.

In summary, let me repeat that this isn't a call for 100% perfection, but a person who claims to be a Christian teacher - let alone a Christian prophet - should at the very least also be a Christian.

By the way, before anyone pulls the "You shouldn't judge others!" fallacy, please read this post.

#3: It doesn't matter if the prophet is not theologically sound

In his book, Bickle says that one of the false equations of prophetic ministry is "anointing equals 100 percent doctrinal accuracy." He goes on to explain:
Throughout church history there have been many anointed ministries who held strange doctrines. A most notable example of this in recent history is William Branham...His ministry was characterized by amazing manifestations of healing and the word of knowledge...The healings were both numerous and astonishing.

However, Branham ended up preaching some doctrinal heresy, although never to the extent of denying Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or doubting the authority of the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be spoken of as the "angel" to the seventh church referred to in Revelation 10. This caused great confusion among his followers. They reasoned that if God gave him so much true prophetic information about people's lives, then why didn't God in the same way give him sound doctrine? But the gift of prophecy doesn't ensure that one will have the gift of teaching or vice versa.

The problem is that some people with strong prophetic ministries often aren't satisfied with just being used by God in prophecy and miracles. They want to also be teachers...If they don't have a teaching gift that has been cultivated through proper training in the scriptures, they are sure to teach unbalanced doctrine to their large number of followers. [pg. 110-111; Prophetic; emphasis mine]
Firstly, I would argue if someone starts claiming to be the angel to the seventh church in Revelation 10, then they are "doubting the authority of the Scriptures" because they are adding to it and reading into it things which scripture clearly says are not there. They are in essence making themselves the final authority. The fact that Mike Bickle does not identify this as "doubting the authority of the Scriptures" is very telling. A person does not have to say "The Bible is not true" to deny the authority of scripture.

Secondly, to shrug this off with what essentially amounts to "Well y'know, sometimes those who can't do, teach" is likewise very telling. IHOP-KC's minimalization of erroneous doctrine in favor of pragmatic evangelism has been talked about before on this blog, specifically at this post. There, IHOP-KC executive officer Daniel Lim compared Oral Roberts with Elijah and shrugged off his ministerial crimes as "nobody's perfect." Crimes, mind you, which included claiming to see a 900-foot tall Jesus, claiming God would kill him unless congregants paid his bills, warning about curses unless people reacted to his prophecies, claiming the giving of "faith seeds" would cure people of cancer, and teaching that Jesus was a financially wealthy man. "Nobody's perfect" indeed. Perhaps Martin Luther should have saved the 95 theses and shrugged off Johann Tetzel's errors with "Well, nobody's perfect." After all, Tetzel had a large following and had many people claiming to have been saved by his indulgences - maybe Tetzel had a special anointing.

Now granted, there can be much said about unity verses cult-like uniformity. The reason I can admire a teacher such as R.C. Sproul despite our differing views on baptism is because the core fundamentals of the historic Christian doctrines are still similar between us. The same goes for Jonathan Edwards and myself in regards to postmillennialism. However, what Bickle has done here is minimalize the need for doctrinal discernment. If a man claiming to be an angel can still have a valid ministry, upon what basis do we say enough is enough when it comes to false doctrine?

The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders that "fierce wolves" would come in among them, teaching "twisted things" to lure away the members (Acts 20:29-30). He likewise warned Christians "to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them" (Rom 16:17). He wrote to Timothy that "if anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ," then he "understands nothing" (1 Tim 6:3-4). He charged Titus to "teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Titus 2:1). The apostle Peter warned Christians "there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies" (2 Pet 2:1). The apostle John went even further:
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. [2 John 1:9-11; NASB]
Scripture gives a clear warning against false doctrine. What's more, it teaches that anyone professing false doctrine is not of God, and commands us not to have fellowship with them. Bickle argues that we should forgo judging a person for great doctrinal faults if they have a great anointing; scripture tells us if they have great doctrinal faults, chances are their "anointing" isn't from God at all.

In the end it doesn't matter how many people they supposedly save or how supposedly prolific their ministry is. If they are not teaching what scripture teaches, they are to be avoided. End of story.

Conclusion

In his book, Bickle writes:
In the atmosphere of being generous to one another, we must not neglect to discern and judge false prophets (Matt 7:15-16). Yes, there are evil deceivers - false prophets - who creep into Christian congregations and maliciously entice and deceive unsuspecting and undiscerning believers through false prophecy. These should be purged from the church if they will not repent. [pg. 55; Prophetic]
The problem is, Bickle has thrown out all the biblical tools that permit a Christian to "discern and judge false prophets." If a prophet prophesies falsely (even repeatedly, and admits to it), he shouldn't be purged. If a prophet claims to be regenerate and yet proves to be greatly immoral and commits acts unbecoming of a Christian leader (even causing "unbearable pain and trauma"), he shouldn't be purged. If a prophet teaches false doctrine (even teaching he's an angel!), he shouldn't be purged.

I do believe that there are "false prophets" who "creep into Christian congregations and maliciously entice and deceive unsuspecting and undiscerning believers through false prophecy"...and it just so happens many of them work at IHOP-KC. These men should be "purged from the church if they will not repent." Their distortion of God's word and their deceiving of young and old alike needs to be called out. We should have nothing to do with them, for they are self-condemned.

To anyone involved with this movement, I heartily beseech that you consider the scriptural truths in all these matters, and beg you to escape from this cult as soon as possible. Regardless of whatever emotional experiences you may have felt, or testimonies you may have heard, the testimony of God's word comes first and foremost. I ask humbly that you treat this matter with great seriousness, for eternity is a long time. God bless.

2 comments:

  1. Respectfully, Tony-Allen, I wanted to write about your comments. Firstly, Mike Bickle is a brother in the Lord. I have heard him confess all the things scripture requires from the pulpit continuously: that Jesus is fully God come in flesh, that Jesus is the God of the Jews and also the God of the Old Testament, and that full submission to Jesus is required for salvation (and the congregation recites the apostles creed monthly with communion). That being said, with fear, I request that you make it your aim, that instead of defaming your brother in the Lord, you pray for him that the Lord might restore him to Himself, if you fear that he has indeed backslidden and is leading other precious sheep away from the Lord. For I am sure that it is the sheep of the Lord that is your concern and the reason you have written what you have?

    As for prophecy, I have heard this mantra many times as a guideline for all IHOP-KC prophecy: "no dates, mates, or babies." Meaning that prophecy is to be kept as such as would edify and uplift the body of Christ. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, therefore the person prophesying speaks what Jesus is feeling, thinking, and doing in the other person. This aligns with the Old Testament, where the prophet is told by God what He is thinking, feeling, and doing and about to do.

    As for IHOP-KC and prophecy, they require that all prophecy be found in scripture. For instance, if I'm feeling the Lord is saying something to someone, I should be able to find a scripture that echoes what I've felt He has said, and if I don't find such a scripture I should question if I've heard God. There are prophecy teams at IHOP-KC, and those who prophecy are prayerfully chosen through application, authoritative recommendation and I believe an interview as well before they are accepted as a member of the prophecy teams. Before any prophecy happens, they tell the hearers to prayerfully consider what they've said and disregard what they believe is not the Lord. In other words, they request a testing of spirits to be done by the hearer themselves.

    This is all I am able to say, because I'm sure you are desiring truth, and I wanted you to be able to know the truth as a person who has been a part of the IHOP-KC fellowship for a handful of years. I encourage you only to follow Jesus Who is the Word of God, and not any man. But in the same way, have mercy on those who stumble, as God has had mercy on you. The judgment that you mete out is the same judgment God will judge you with. God is extraordinarily kind to you, and He wants you to know that He loves you and receives and accepts you as His son. There is nothing you can do to make God love or like you any more than He already does. You are completely accepted in the Beloved.

    Bless you.

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  2. Jent, thank you for your response.

    Firstly, in regards to Mike Bickle, I reject that he's a brother in the Lord, for all the reasons I've already outlined in this post (and others I've written). A person who has been regenerated by God does not say the things Mike Bickle has, who not only mishandles scripture, but misleads people with bold assertions such as the quick return of Christ, a promise he has been making recently. This goes beyond mere back sliding. What's more, as I demonstrated here, he has a history of doing this, and has yet to show any real repentance for it. The men he associates with are likewise as erroneous, and I have written on this blog about them.

    Secondly, in regards to prophecy, you write: "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, therefore the person prophesying speaks what Jesus is feeling, thinking, and doing in the other person. This aligns with the Old Testament, where the prophet is told by God what He is thinking, feeling, and doing and about to do." Might I ask, however, where in the New Testament this is explained in such a fashion? I am well aware of Bickle's reference to Revelation 19:10, but that's a gross exaggeration of the words in that passage. On this note, are you also aware that Bickle's beliefs regarding prophecy and its definition in the New Testament are fairly new? No one in Church History ever interpreted it the way he did - not the Church Fathers, not the Reformers - not any of the divines throughout our history, up until the rise of the Charismatic movement. Bickle therefore either has grand revelation that God has withheld from the church, or every Christian in history has been grossly misreading their scripture.

    Thirdly, you write: "if I'm feeling the Lord is saying something to someone, I should be able to find a scripture that echoes what I've felt He has said, and if I don't find such a scripture I should question if I've heard God." Might I ask, then, what good is prophecy? If all we have is in scripture, why do we need anything new? Might I also ask why we would read backwards, in regards to looking for "affirmation" of our inspiration from scripture? Scripture should be read *forwards*, not backwards. I don't have a dream and go to scripture to confirm the dream - that's eisegesis. I read scripture within the proper context it was written. Bickle himself commits this error - for example, he felt inspiration to build IHOP-KC from a passage in scripture about building the house of God, not seeming to realize that it was referring to the Jews returning from the captivity and preparing to build the Second Temple. It has nothing to do, nor could it have anything to do, with building IHOP-KC.

    I am well aware of the love for God, and believe me I follow no one else but God and His word. That is why I oppose men like Bickle and his company. When I read God's word, and then I compare the words of Bickle - who, I might add, claims to be working for God - I see contradictions, I see mishandling, and I see distortions. A man who claims to be hearing from God while grossly abusing His word cannot be truly hearing from God. A man who says that someone claiming to be an angel from Revelation isn't denying the authority of the Bible does not know what authority means. This kind of man is a dangerous man, and should be avoided.

    Therefore, since you feel the need to inform and entreat me, I will return the favor to you: I entreat that you leave IHOP-KC. Abandon it, no matter how attached you may be to it. It is founded by men who have been proven to be false prophets, and led by men who are not truly theologically sound. Whatever emotional feelings you may have, the word of God is the final authority, and must trump our emotions when they prove contrary to conscience and scripture. Find an orthodox church family in which you can truly learn about the love of God and what His word says about you, His love, His judgment, and His redemption. God bless.

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