Mike Bickle 1990's
My Eight Years With The Kansas City Prophets" (Part Two)
© Tricia Tillin March 2002
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The following is a story about the phenomenon known as the Kansas City Prophets, a network of people whose name and ministries derived from the fact that most of them came to be resident in that city and working out of Kansas City Fellowship/Metro Christian Fellowship, Shiloh and IHOP.
One of the motifs often heard around Metro is that of a "gathering of eagles". And while that may take on applications that have been somewhat vain at times, there is no denying the fact that the founding and history of this church has been marked at times by an amazing gathering of gifted key people making up both its leadership and its members. Hundreds if not thousands of people could testify of God leading them to come to Kansas City. Many would not understand why. Others seemed to instinctively sense a great need for a ministry that would challenge and correct the things in the Body of Christ that needed to be changed. This latter sentiment I think really reflects the original heart of God for this ministry.
The sad thing is that so many that were sent here have now left, feeling disillusioned, frustrated and disappointed. Some, it is true, left because they wanted to change the vision to their own fleshly liking and got rightly frustrated. Others though just languished on the vine, unused and unappreciated, and eventually left for greener pastures. And yet many others left because they were forced out, or were rejected when they really were in touch with God. This has been the great tragedy of the Kansas City Fellowship phenomenon, that, even when the leadership wanted in the worst way to do the will of God, ignorance at the very least, if not the temptations to fame and popularity, kept them from seeing what that will of God was. This, coupled with a wrong Biblical and doctrinal foundation, has kept them from realizing the purposes of God for them. At least that is the opinion of this observer.
I believe you could divide up the history of the Kansas City Fellowship into five eras. The first was late 1982 to 1985, the Formative years. The second was 1985 to 1990, the Hijacked years. The third was 1990 to 1996, the Languishing years. The fourth was 1996 to 2000, the "valiant-attempt-to-make-a-comeback-but-not-knowing-how-to-do-it" years. The fifth are the "IHOP-Shiloh" years, 2000 to present.
Era 1. The Formative Years
The reason I think Kansas City Fellowship was never just another ordinary "vision" some up-and-coming young pastor had for a church or ministry of his own is due to the circumstances surrounding its origins. There is no doubt its first and long-standing pastor Mike Bickle (1982 to 2000) has been the most central figure in this church's history. But according to his own words, he had no itch in his spirit to move back to his hometown of Kansas City to start a totally new work. At the time "it all started", he already was a young and budding pastor in his wife Diane's hometown of St. Louis, where they said they both were more than happy already. He was pastoring a "Covenant" church, part of a network of churches overseen by a British "apostle" named Bryn Jones. (Bryn Jones is to this day a prominent leader in British "Restorationism" circles).
Mike himself had come to the Lord in 1971 and had some early roots in both Catholicism and Presbyterianism. The son of a world champion boxer, Mike excelled in sports and academics. A naturally brilliant man, he had early plans to go to medical school, but gave it up because of a strong sense God was calling him to the ministry. Part of this had to be because he was such an avid student of the Word.
In fact, this is my explanation why he, not even that skilled at being a pastor, was apparently called by God to somehow steward the wild visionaries that eventually surrounded him. Far from being overawed by such prophetically-gifted people and dominated by them, it seems to me he was called to act as a skeptic and a restrainer, to filter out the worst of their excesses with his extensive knowledge of the Word of God. But he strikes me as having had a very eclectic approach to his understanding of the Word all the same, adopting interpretations or traditions that do not seem consistent one to another. I think too he has understandably struggled with fears of pride or presumption in the face of prophetic gifts that have been so awesome at times. He also seems to have had a hard time resisting the pressures of many of his other friends, probably due to his being such a "people person". An outgoing extrovert, Mike has had a hard time, it seems to me, saying no to people and accepting the rejection that naturally dogs the prophetic person.
While pastoring this Covenant church in St. Louis, a young man, a prophet named Agustine Acala sought him out one day in 1982 to give him a word from God, that God would soon be moving him back to his hometown of Kansas City to do something totally different. Mike was pretty skeptical of anyone who claimed to be a "prophet", but this first step was quickly followed by others, apparently arranged in the sovereign Providence of God. Soon thereafter Mike himself heard a powerful message from the Lord while praying in Cairo. He was told he was being invited to be "a part of a work that will reach to the ends of the earth", that this was something "very serious", and that many before him had agreed to it but hadn't followed through on it. He was also told it would be built upon four principles of day and night prayer, holiness of heart, unwavering faith and extravagant giving to the poor. God also told him, "Guard your heart, for if you lose this vision it will be your brothers who have stolen it from you--it will not be the world that does that." The idea is that they would "reason away" these four standards and hijack God's purposes in one way or another unless Mike guarded it very closely. But if he did, it would "fulfill a purpose that will touch the ends of the earth." [viii]
By September, 1982, Mike, Diane, brother-in-law Bob Scott and a few others made the move to Kansas City, and from the start, Kansas City Fellowship was attended by a number of amazing miracles of financial provision, healings, and fulfilled prophecies. God it seems was doing a lot of things to encourage these young people before the hard trials began to set in.
During this time, people apparently were walking around wide-eyed, as it seemed exciting things were happening all the time. In addition, Agustine showed up again, this time in Kansas City. He said God had told him to tell Mike that there were four important things Mike needed to "hide in his heart" if he wanted to see the new work become a success. One, multitudes of young people will rally to him. Two, a full manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit would be in evidence, but not before an appointed time. Three, there would be a false prophet in their midst from the beginning, but "if you will be patient and discerning, you will save the church great heartache. If you do not, you will suffer many, many problems." [ix] And four, there will be resistance and misunderstanding.
On False Prophets
At times I have tried to speculate as to who that "false prophet there from the beginning" could possibly be, and I have come to the conclusion that I do not have enough insight into this or first-hand experience of what happened to say for sure who it might have been. But in light of what has transpired in KCF's history, I think it good that we consider for a moment just what a false prophet is, because, according to a Biblical understanding, almost all of the prophets associated with this ministry over the years could qualify as "false".
I say this not because I necessarily think any of these guys do not live holy lives. Nor as if they were not prophetically gifted (for they most certainly are). Nor as if they were cynical, insincere wolves-in-sheep's-clothing types who want to fleece the people of God. I bring this up because of what the Bible has to say about false prophets. In the Bible, a false prophet was someone who either led the people of God astray to other gods (Deut 13:1-3), or led them astray into vanity and foolishness (Jer 23:9-40). A prophet was false when he did not have the mentality or mindset or heart of a true prophet. A true prophet was someone who knew the Lord and His ways well, and could instinctively and intuitively discern the spirits, both human, demonic and Divine involved in a situation, whether or not it involved a "vision", hearing a voice, or dreaming a dream.
In the Old Testament, false prophets were, ironically, a dime a dozen. Elijah ran into a ratio of 850 false prophets of Baal and the groves to only one of him (I Kings 18:19). Micaiah was similarly outnumbered (I Kings 22:6). But these were the ones that were easy to detect because they obviously were working on behalf of Baal (the Devil). It was the other prophets, the supposed "prophets of Jehovah" that were the real hidden reefs. An example of one Jeremiah went up against was Hananiah, who predicted a quick return from exile (Jer 28:3). Others spoke of endless prosperity, never preparing the people of God for the evil day to come (Isa 56:12; Eze 22:28; Amos 6:3, etc.). These are the ones all men will speak well of (Lu 6:26).
Here are some things the Bible has to say about the nature of false prophets:
God said they were leaders who "make you vain", that is, they say things that are flattering ("You're going to be so anointed, so consecrated, so dripping with miracles and the wealth of the wicked", etc., etc.--Jer 23:16; Eze 13:6,7,8,9), rather than things that are truthful and deflating, though liberating (23:22).
Whereas a true prophet would be willing to "hew away" at the people like a lumberjack if need be (Hos 6:5), to give words like a fire to wood if need be (Jer 5:14), and like a hammer that breaks the rock hard heart of a hardened generation if need be (23:29), the false prophets gave words that were "light" (23:32 KJV) and "smooth" (Isa 30:10).
They would lead the people astray with their "reckless lies" (Jer 23:32 NIV).
They were out for gain. If you didn't "put into their mouths" (i.e., give them money or at least endorse them), they would "even declare war on you" (Micah 3:5.11). But if you cooperate, they will prophesy prosperity over you (2:11). Plus, in doing so they often pervert justice in the process (Eze 13:19,22).
I cannot help but think of the money shakedown practices and the threats given toward their critics by the Benny Hinn-Paul Crouch-Word of Faith type preachers here [x] . Yet one time, Mike announced that he had had a dream wherein he saw himself ministering on a stage with Benny Hinn (one of the worst cynics in the Charismatic circuit, as far as I'm concerned). Mike though was all a ga-ga over this prospect, which indeed did come to pass in time.
They are cunning, like the foxes that haunt a spiritual desert (Eze 13:4). They know how to "work a crowd", how to get your money, how to double back and cover up their tracks, etc. Consider the Rodney Howard-Browne/ Copeland/Hinn types, (and I could give you all kinds of examples of their perfidy in these things).
They prophesy things out of the vision and deceit of their own heart (Jer 23:16,26). That is, they just make things up! They "follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!", God said to Ezekiel (Eze 13:3). "I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds" (Jer 14:14 NIV). In other words, they just conjure things up in their own imaginations! Or when they do get something from the Lord, they so mangle the interpretation as to end up at times coming to the exact opposite conclusion they're supposed to!
This particular characteristic is absolutely rampant in Charismatic and Restoration circles. I once read an interview with Rick Joyner wherein he explained how he gets his visions. He said he just deliberately sits down and writes at will whatever he sees, whatever he gets! Yet in the Bible, when God gave a vision, the prophet did not initiate it.
They "seduce My people", telling them "Peace, peace" when there is no peace in the offing (Eze 13:10; Jer 23:17).
They tell you what you want to hear, not necessarily what you need to hear (Jer 13:12-14). Zedekiah, the son of Chenaanah was so flattering in telling King Ahab what he wanted to hear about "going up and taking Ramoth-Gilead" that King Jehoshaphat asked, "Isn't there a prophet of the Lord here besides", to enquire of? Ahab said, yes, there's old Micaiah, "but I hate him, for he never prophesies good to me, but evil" (I Kings 22:6-8). Yet Ahab follows Zedekiah's counsel to his own death (22:37).
In doing so, they heal the hurt of the people only slightly rather than completely (Jer 6:14; 8:11).
Their own deception is sometimes from the Lord, in order to, in turn, deceive the people who have an idol in their hearts who come to receive from them (Eze 14:7-9; II Tim 4:3,4). Scary.
They are like those who fail to build a hedge to protect the people in times of attack (Eze 13:5), and like those who build a "flimsy wall", and then "cover it with whitewash" (Eze 13:10 NIV).
Their usual concern is more for ritual or an outward show of religious activity that serves as a way of avoiding the will of God or the very personal nature of His salvation process (Amos 5:21-24; Isa 1:11-15; Mt 23:5,14,23-31; I Sam 15:22).
They lack a general discernment and consciousness of spiritual forces and principles at work. Isaiah 56:10,11 says, "His [Israel's] watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter".
I found it most ironic that a group of people that wanted so bad to be "prophetic" seemed to either manifest such characteristics themselves, or at the least, seemed content to stay silent or live in the presence of such in the Church world around them. Truly it seemed to me, they "lack a general discernment and consciousness of spiritual forces and principles at work" around them.
I'll give a few examples of either this lack of consciousness, lack of conviction, or lack of concern at Metro--little things, but illustrative all the same. One concerned Richard Wurmbrand's "Voice Of The Martyrs", probably the finest ministry I know of. About five years ago, VOM was making November a month to pray for the suffering Christians around the world. I suggested at the very least MCF make an announcement from the pulpit to endorse this, which to me was so obviously the kind of prophetic burden we in America ought to be taking up. But they said nothing! I think I was told to just leave some literature at the information booth, yawn. It's things like that that make me wonder, is this the effect of a Triumphalistic, Post-Millennialism paradigm? Were they not interested because "suffering Christians" is only a speedbump on the road to the inevitable victory of "Joel's Army"? I really can't say, since they were always and forever vague or all over the map.
A second and third example came out of a Sunday School class by Sam Storms I was taking, probably around 1999. Amazingly, it was practically the only adult Sunday class the church had at the time, probably because they were so afraid of bad teachings causing more problems for them. Sam is a friend of seminary professor Jack Deere and was first referred to KCF by him. Deere could be considered one of the KC prophets, even though he is more a teacher. But he is so known for his apologetics for LR / MSOG doctrine that I would include him as one of the non-resident principals. [xi]
Both Deere and Storms are Bible scholars and teachers in their own right. Sam is no longer at the ministry, having recently taken a teaching position at Wheaton College. In eschatology he is Amillennial, but the curious thing is that while he was here, he apparently served as something of a resident theologian, for Mike would always say that if anyone had a theological question, ask Sam. This was an arrangement I thought to be incredibly futile and escapist. How can any Christian, like it or not, avoid having theological opinions and standing by them?
Well, in this class I can recall two very memorable occasions when Sam made statements that revealed the consciousness of this ministry. On one of them, he mentioned a recent study that determined that the number one factor people have in picking a church nowadays is--would you believe--...parking! To be fair, Sam duly expressed his dismay at this, but I myself was flabbergasted! Undone! I mean like, this was really deep convictions in the Church in America! I took it as a sign of the effect of ecumenism, that what you believe is not really important, as long as you are "churched"! (Ugh! I hate that term!)
The second occasion was when Sam said that MCF was "not a church that believed in Triumphalism". I found that quite ironic, since so much of the tenor of these prophets and teachers seemed to suggest exactly that. The fact that Mike's penchant for allegorizing the Old Testament and speaking in the most positive and rosey of language regarding the glory and power of the Bride left me thinking that, even if he believes in something less than the total triumph of the Church before Christ returns, his words and emphasis still tend to leave that sort of an impression on the people all the same.
To be fair, I have been told by friends since I left the church almost two years ago now, that Mike has been preaching a whole lot more on tribulation, martyrdom, end-time plagues and the like recently. I am not heartened by this because I'm "into" negative, apocalyptic things. Who in their right mind would be? I am heartened by this in the sense that at least this sort of subject matter is Biblically-based and more associated with the traditional Pre-Millennial template than Latter Rain speculations.
On the other hand, this could be what I mean by Mike being "technically Pre-Millennial" at the same time. Does he believe the Church triumphs over all opposition and then Christ returns? Is he responding to all the criticism he has received over the years and is now hiding his "positive" emphasis with a more Biblical scenario? Is he reacting to life since September 11, 2001? Or has he truly seen the light? I have not been there for almost two years now and cannot say for sure. All I know is that he is still quite taken with the Tabernacle of David theme, something very native to Latter Rain ideology. All I remember is hearing a steady stream of pretentious sentiments about "lovesickness" and passion for Jesus, about how the five foolish virgins of Matthew 25 would end up in heaven (despite verses 10 to 12), about how nice it would be if God would end up saving at least half of all the people who ever lived (in spite of Luke 13:23,24), etc., etc.
The Bob Jones Phenomenon
I summarize then. A person is not a false prophet just because they may be (1) very sincere and well-meaning, (2) may have an incredibly impressive prophetic gift at times, or (3) may even live a most godly life. A prophet becomes false when he ends up leading people into idolatry, error, vanity or a false hope of the future. This may be due to an ungodly life (Jude 4,11,16), to his giving out of false prophecies (e.g., Jer 28:1-9), or to a lack of sound doctrine and discernment, or all three. But the overall effect or "fruit" is the same (Mt 7:16). And this inspite of the fact that he may in no way wish to do so! But whether they are aware of their deceitfulness or not (Eph 4:14), God still holds them accountable, and confirms that the effect is still the same.
The problem I have with the type of prophets found in Kansas City, or those of the networks of people like Bill Hamon and the like, are not necessarily the first problem but the second two. Many of these men live very holy and sacrificial lives. But their problem, as Steve Moore's vision put it, is in their minds. It's their lack of understanding or discernment of truth, the future, world conditions and the like, where I feel they mess up. At what point such characteristics move down from the head to the heart is something only God can be the judge of.
In light of the characteristics above, the story of Bob Jones is a good case in point. To be sure, he came on like gang busters in a most impressive display of initial prophecies, and has continued at times to have the most uncanny accuracy. For example, the very night he predicted would be the end of that three-month drought after the 21-day fast, it not only rained, it poured! And in another story, John Wimber credits Jones for leading his son Sean back from a life of drugs and rebellion to the Lord. Jones did this by one day showing up at Wimber's door wanting to see the son. Wimber told him he didn't live with them anymore and wasn't expecting him back any time soon. Moments later though, Sean appears. (That's incredible timing!) Jones then proceeded to tell Sean some personal things from God that just broke him down and brought him back to the Lord. (That's incredible accuracy!) It was an experience Wimber never forgot and seemed to forever make him a believer in, and grateful for, the prophetic ministry. [xii]
But by the same token, when Jones was off, he was really off! He would talk about how his intellect was in his hair and that the angel of the Lord was coming to him and to all of us to give us a hair cut (i.e., "offend our mind to reveal our heart", or some such non-sensical sentiment). He would say things like, " He's not even dealing with the Bride yet...My grandchildren, will be the Bride." But in the Bible, the "Bride" is both the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2), and the redeemed of all the ages, not just the very last generation! All this kind of stuff is pure Manifested Sons talk. He would talk about how the "Sons" of those days would just "breathe in the (very) breath and power of God" to make themselves impervious to arrest or imprisonment. ("I tell you, none of those that are His will be lost and none of you in this room will ever suffer from that son of perdition...") [xiii]
But what really got me is what he says God told him about Kansas City and the new fellowship he was a part of. These people would "never, ever reject you Bob", the Lord supposedly said. And, he was told never to leave the city, for this was where it "would all start from". Yet both things came to pass with time.
A typical "Restoration" type prophecy of Bob Jones in the 1980's was caught in a question and answer meeting between him and Mike Bickle. Jones spoke of a supposed raising up of 35 end-time apostles who would "reign and reveal to the world that they truly are the faithful and true leaders and the government that will be upon his single shoulder" [sic]. At the time, Mike responded, "I think there'11 be 35 like unto Paul...The government rests on apostles and prophets."
Jones' comment about the government resting upon a "single shoulder" is a real stretch of an allusion to the Isaiah 9:6 verse about Christ and His Kingship. What exactly is he saying here? That the government of the Church in the last days will be headed by 35 super apostles? The apostle fulfills a ministry of church planting, not an ecclesiastical office. But Mike's allusion to Ephesians 2:20 makes no mistake as to how he took it--that the Church of the future, the "transformed expression of Christianity" that he has become famous for trumpeting, will be characterized by a government headed by modern-day apostles and prophets. [xiv]
Jones also gave Mike a word in 1986, I believe, regarding Song of Solomon 8:6. That verse simply reads, "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." I take that as being a simple exhortation from God regarding the need for a committed "love unto death" if need be, in the last days. Yet Mike took this to be some sort of a word that the entire book of the Song of Solomon was meant to be like a hermeneutic or a "key" to opening up the meaning of the relationship of Christ to His Last Days Bride. This fits right in however, with the LR / MSOG idea of a special, last-days generation that would come along which would attain to levels of spirituality, anointing and power surpassing all others before it. The incredible pretentiousness of it all, especially in light of the extraordinary lives and the extraordinary suffering of saints that have gone before us, just floors me.
There were other little stories and prophetic parables Bob Jones gave at times for KCF that remain intriguing to this day. One of them was the "White Horse" vision. In this, KCF was likened to a great White Horse that was carrying a rider who was an invalid. That rider was said to be Pat Bickle, Mike's younger brother who had become a quadriplegic due to a football accident a decade earlier. In the vision, Jones saw the rider thrown off the horse, land in a few inches of water, and wind up instantly healed! He was also told that it would not be until this happens that "the [KCF] movement will [really] begin". I find this intriguing because in my prayer times, God has often seemed to allow me to "see" certain people represented as white horses, chess board-like knights symbolizing faithful and spiritually-minded servants of His.
He also said he had a vision of the angels of the 1946-era healing revival "having a reunion" here in Kansas City once again before the return of the Lord. This prophecy, coupled with Paul Cain's expectations of packed stadiums, has worked to generate a hope for a great outbreak of healings and others gifts, per the Agustine prophecy, one day. I find this intriguing, and do hope it comes to pass. But since I see this great outpouring to be in conjunction with the Great Tribulation (as I outlined at the very beginning), I'm having a hard time processing how this possibly could come to pass during a time of such obvious disruption of regular life and services (such as electricity, for example).
The Ten Year Captivity
As was said, from its beginning this ministry has been characterized by a gathering of certain key and gifted people. Some were not just prophets but intercessors as well. One was Noel Alexander. Bob Jones had made this announcement, "Noel is coming! Noel is coming!" This was very intriguing but baffling to everyone. What did it mean? Some sort of a reference to Christmas?
Yet before long, Mike met this guy named Noel Alexander at a city-wide prayer meeting. Noel was originally from South Africa but was studying for the ministry there in Kansas City at the Nazarene Church's main seminary. The two hit it off quite well due to their common burden for intercession, and before long Noel was one of the main leaders. A man given to holiness themes and a holy life, Noel eventually broke off to pastor a church on his own by the early 1990's. Why this was he won't say but I suspect it had to do with concern over the direction of the ministry. Around 1997, Noel was back though, planning IHOP with Mike on the side. For what it's worth, I once felt God tell me Noel had always been His choice to be the senior pastor.
But before we move on into the raucous period of 1985 to 1990, there are two prophecies Jones gave in 1984 that are important as regards the emergence of the "Toronto Blessing" ten years later and on into the future. These are the Butler-Baker vision and the Civil War prophecies.
In 1984, Bob Jones claimed he was given a word or a vision for the church based on the story in Genesis 40 where the patriarch Joseph landed in Pharoah's prison. While there, the king's butler and baker were thrown in there with him. They both had a dream, and Joseph's interpretation of each turned out to be accurate. The butler (waiter, food taster) was restored to his job serving Pharoah while the baker was executed.
Jones interpreted this to mean that there would be a ten year spiritual drought in the Body of Christ after which "the new wine (the butler ministry) would begin to be poured out". I feel this is tremendously important as regards the so-called Toronto Blessing. Ten years after 1984 was 1994, and it wasn't even the end of the first month of that year before the Toronto phenomenon descended upon the unsuspecting people of God.
Now I do not presume to be so omniscient as to say I can tell infallibly the source of every spiritual phenomenon found in this Toronto movement. I do not doubt that the things that happened in the TB covered every aspect of spiritual reality, from things from God, to things from the devil, to things from human flesh. The point is this. From my perspective, the combination of the incredibly flakey nature of the phenomenon manifested there coupled with people's knowledge in these circles of Jones' 1984 prophecy, coupled with people's desire for "revival," added up to one of three possible meanings. One, God initiated this, knowing it would introduce great confusion and strife into the Body of Christ at a time in history when He told us to beware of exactly these kinds of speculative things. Two, it was a demonically contrived and manipulated phenomenon. Or three, it was basically and mostly a humanly-contrived, engineered event. With any of these explanations, I do not see anything of a winner at work. And if I am wrong, then I'm glad to err on the side of prudence.
I will have more to say on this when we get to my encounter with John Arnott in 1995 shortly. But for now, the reader needs to know that many people wanted this "Butler/Baker" prophecy by Jones to happen and were willing to do all they could to see to it that it did.
But that's not the worst of it. During the 1980's Jones told of another vision or dream he had, this time of a great Civil War coming to the Body of Christ. Like the American Civil War of the 1860's, this would also involve the "Blues and the Grays", the former symbolizing those who were "fighting for unity" in the Body of Christ, and the latter those who wanted to keep the people of God enslaved, who were dominated by "gray matter" (that is, their own carnal minds or logic).
Now when the Toronto phenomenon came about, you have to understand that, according to new order thinking, the Church was not just to expect great things in the Last Days. We were to look for a whole new paradigm to define what Christianity is! Remember, according to Latter Rain dogma, everything is evolving. Therefore, (if you'll forgive the TB's feeble attempt at logic here), the Church ought to be open to entirely new expressions of spiritual manifestations now. Things that may have been considered demonic even just a few years ago, hey, they now just as well could be the work of the Holy Spirit! Why not? After all, God is doing a "new thing" now, isn't He? Why throw it out just because you've never seen it before?
But the question to me is, why do we need to accept it? Yet that is exactly what the whole controversy eventually devolved down into. What really infuriates me is that these people had the gall to pick a fight with the people of God by insisting that we prove our loyalty to God, not on the basis of faith in Christ and His eternal and unchanging Word, oh no! But by their forcing us to come down one side or the other as to whether these incredibly flakey and speculative experiences were of God or not! And if you didn't agree, then you were you were using human logic (gray matter), and were blaspheming the Holy Ghost!
Well let me declare to you Civil War mongers right here and now. You, not we, have a big choice to make in the days ahead. You must decide which you are going to base your Christian faith on--the "once-and-for-all-delivered" Word of God (Jude 3), or your New Agey, esoteric experiences! Go ahead. Choose your paradigm, and get off our backs!
Era 2. The Hijacked Years.
When John Paul Jackson first walked through the doors of KCF, the thought that came to a friend of mine was, "Oh no. Here comes trouble!" Yet this was one of those prophecies that did come true!
John Paul Jackson or JPJ as he was often referred to, was the epitome of cool. A handsome man, always casually but impeccably dressed, he was charming, suave, articulate and smooth. And he had an amazing prophetic gift. I heard of one night where Jackson virtually "read the mail" of everyone in the room and gave words of personal prophecy that seemed "just right" to all.
Jackson however, I think must have been the second biggest factor in turning the young group in the wrong direction. From what I've heard (and heard directly from him the two times he visited while I was there), I get the impression that JPJ was especially enamoured of doctrines that lent "control" to those in leadership. He seemed to introduce the theme of "Dominion" a lot during those years. To this day, the grade school within MCF is called "Dominion Christian School".
Jackson also developed a curriculum known as the "Commitment Classes" that all members were required to take. Friends of mine testify that it had the effect of putting a sense of obligation on everyone almost to a point of creating a cult-like atmosphere. (Not that everything else wasn't encouraging the same!) He claimed in these classes to advocate a Pre-Mill, Post-Trib eschatology, but the thrust of his thinking seemed to support the "New Order" mentality of the ministry. I will say that he seemed more inclined to "apocalyptic" expectations of the future than others in the ministry. But, as I myself have done, he would often jump the gun on these things, or just get excessive about them.
Jackson also promoted his very extreme doctrine of "The Jezebel Spirit", the basic gist of which was that anyone, especially the women, who questioned the prophets of God were operating under the spirit of Jezebel who contended with the great prophet Elijah. That is mind-boggling to me, considering that Jezebel was far worse than a mere deceived Israelite prophet. She was a witch, and an open enemy of Jehovah. I was told that, because of this teaching, it got to where men would hardly look into the eyes of the women in the congregation, lest they be mesmerized by some Jezebel lurking out there!
This alone apparently created such wounds in the women that around the mid-1990's while JPJ was visiting, they held a special time of public apology for that doctrine. And yet, on his web site today, he's still promoting this same teaching! [xv] All this apparently did not deter the leadership though, from inviting JPJ back twice to speak in conferences during the time I was there. That too was Vintage Metro.
I have the impression Jackson brought with him more than just a lot of false doctrines. An alien spirit mimicking the Spirit of prophecy entered in with him. This is not to say it wasn't there before, nor that he never operated in the Holy Spirit. It's just to say there was a clear mixture at best, at work. I had heard that when Derek Prince came to the church in 1986 with a word for them, he preached on the "Spirit of Divination", but that they did not especially "bear witness" to it. Vintage Metro again.
Jackson had a big impact on the fellowship and I get the impression he almost took the whole show over at times. I wouldn't be surprised if his confidence and prophetic gift overwhelmed and intimidated Mike at times. I also get the impression Bob Jones was really irked by him, feeling pushed out of a place of central influence and favor because of him. In fact, during this five year period, it seems in subtle ways Jackson was doing his part to deftly to push out of leadership--and at times the entire fellowship--every Godly voice and influence. Some people feel that when Jones got into a sexual impropriety scandal and was forced to leave (and has yet to be let back in), it came about because it was his unconscious way of getting back at everyone for letting Jackson come in and take over. That's pretty deep but I guess anything's possible.
It was during this five-year time period that the following typical things happened. Bob Jones' dream or vision of KCF producing "35 apostles" out of its ranks leading a parade from the church down to Arrowhead Stadium for amazing city-wide revivals came about; Jones' "Golden Seed Generation" teaching (very "new order") landed on the youth; erroneous predictions of the future were given, including the fellowship one day having its own Boeing 747; the idea of one unified Church for the entire city was strongly pursued; charges that KCF was trying to "take over" other churches in the city were alledged, and other things that all led up to the whistle Ernie Gruen eventually blew.
And yet the church was growing a lot, to a point of having six locations around the city. It seems to me it was at this time that the strongest Restoration teachings took hold. I get the impression it was during this period that Mike solidified his beliefs in this area, perhaps due to the dominant influence of Jones and Jackson, and the foundation laid in his life by Bryn Jones. Also during this time, relationship with John Wimber and the Vineyard began to emerge, giving the mostly obscure band greater exposure to a world-wide stage.
1987 proved to be a significant year here. It was at this time that another prophet and current staffer, Michael Sullivant arrived. Michael seemed to identify with the "Toronto Blessing" movement a lot while I was there, although he once told me he agrees with my basic eschatological vision when I once described it to him. He has a beautiful family, and I generally agreed with a lot of his insights into life, although we disagreed on a lot else. Also during this same year, Paul Cain first showed up. (In 1997 he moved to Kansas City to make MCF his home church and to start "Shiloh Prophetic Retreat Center"). Paul Cain's prophetic gifting, humility and integrity certainly are exceptional. But there have been few people the ministry has produced with more radical Latter Rain, Manifested Sons concepts than he.
Cain had had an amazing life story already. It has been adequately chronicled in books like Some Said It Thundered and The Quest For The Radical Middle, and I don't want to take up the space here to go over it again. But he immediately began sharing his long-standing vision for a great "Joel's Army" moving in the combined power of the "early and latter rain" outpouring (Joel 2:23). Whereas Pentecostal evangelists in his younger days (1940s-50s) sought for the glory in a way that sickened him, he proclaimed the coming of a "new breed" now that would not be so corrupted. He predicted days to come wherein large stadiums would be packed with people. It would be a time of revival and unbelievable miracles taking place. Preachers would have open visions, standing motionless for 3 days at a time, etc. He spoke of an army that was invincible, overcoming all obstacles in its path, teleporting themselves around the world, realizing their "full sonship", etc. Yet the basic view of the last days as is laid out in Scripture he left dangling in vagueness at best.
Building The Bride
It was also during these years that Mike began to germinate the elementary seeds of his "Bride of Christ" teaching which, in typical fashion, he researched into the ground, trying to find the thread of this theme throughout as much of the Scriptures as he could. We have mentioned earlier how he got started on this. Mike says that one day in 1986, I believe, Bob Jones called him and told him that God spoke to him that Song of Solomon 8:6 would become an important Scripture for the last days. And since Jones said this right when Mike was meditating on this very Scripture, it was a strong confirmation to him that they both were on to something.
That verse says, "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." To me, this verse was meant to convey the simple idea of being faithful unto death in the face of intense persecution. But to Mike, this was a sign that the entire Song of Solomon, one of the more minor books of the Bible, was a whole hermeneutic for unlocking the mystery of the Last Days through an allegory about Christ and His Bride. Thus its "secrets" must be discovered and its esoteric motif researched out to the "nth" degree and driven into the ground to a point where the last days generation is the Bride for all practical purposes, as opposed to the traditional understanding that the Bride is the collective redeemed of all the ages.
This idea is surely appealing to human vanity and thus guaranteed its becoming a popular teaching. Furthermore, it seemed it took one of the lesser motifs of the New Testament and made it the central one. The New Testament uses a number of motifs to describe the believer's relationship to Christ--e.g., Lord to subject, Master to servant, Savior to the redeemed, Father to a son, friend to a friend, brother to a brother, and the like. The Bridegroom / Bride teaching seemed to tend towards Manifested Sonship, a special last days, last generation Church that would be so devoted to Christ as to exceed all others.
This I felt was a very vain assumption to make, especially in light of the plain evidence all around us that the Church world of our day is just soaked in heresy, shallowness and corruption and ought to be the things that a "prophetic people" would be preoccupied with. The idea conveyed in the teachings and worship I witnessed went beyond the Biblical idea of a collective Church, to an implication that each individual believer is a "bride". As a man especially, I felt very embarrassed by such effeminate sentiments, in both the teaching and worship expressions.
There are two other "prophets" that deserve to be mentioned here that were involved during this time. Neither of them were resident in Kansas City but were such frequent guests and friends that they could be considered part of them. They are Rick Joyner and Francis Frangipane. Frangipane has an interesting background, having once been a pastor in the small association of churches that became known as "The Walk" and headed by the "Apostle of the End Times," John Paul Stevens. Stevens and his "Walk" have been almost universally considered to be a cult, in that Stevens saw himself to be the main apostle or prophet of the end-times, who spent a lot of his time trying to "break through to the heavenlies" to be the first of the "Manchild" company. Accordingly, his followers were urged to intercede for him until he accomplished this.
Today Frangipane is considered a major leader in the ecumenical movement. His great burden, he claims, is to bring all the churches in any city into unity, something that, as we've seen, is a two-edged sword at best. He also promotes the idea of the "Manifest Presence" of God dwelling on and resting in His corporate Body in the last days, part of the Manifested Sonship idea of a spiritual Second Coming of Christ into His corporate Church in the last days. [xvi] It's a sentiment I basically agree with, that the Presence and anointing will grow stronger and stronger as the Second Coming approaches. But it's presented in such a context of ecumenism and excess that the circumstantial context of it all is left so vague at best.
But it's Joyner who is the most outrageous of the two of them. Rick Joyner, who some time back was made a Knight in the Catholic "Knights of Malta" order, is a highly regarded prophet in the Dominionist circles, probably because he is a master at couching his words in the most spiritual and Biblical of language without ever having to get specific as to exactly what he's getting at. Yet what he's about is stone-cold Latter Rain / Restorationist Dominionism to the "nth" degree. Just a cursory read of his book, The Harvest has exploits even God hasn't thought of.
I remember being at the big 1997 "Passion For Jesus" summer conference where Joyner spoke. He told the story of a "Saint Claus", apparently a mystic centuries ago who didn't eat or drink for 20 years! When the leaders of seven cantons or city-states were preparing to go to war with one another, they apparently decided to consult St. Claus before they did anything. Whatever he said to them really must have worked, because instead of going to war they decided to start a country! Yes, this was the beginnings of Switzerland, now the piggy bank for the world's elites, where money talks and no one cares how you got it! (Just joking. It's really a great country with great people!)
The visibly-overweight Sir Joyner finished his sermon by declaring that, "This is the kind of commitment it's going to take to bring in the Kingdom in the last days." Immediately after that, Don Steadman got up to inform people about places to eat lunch nearby. I thought to myself, "Wait a minute! Wait a minute! You can't do that! Lunch has just been cancelled for the next 20 years!"
I'd really hate to be a baby Christian again and have to take people this spiritual seriously.
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[viii] Some Said It Thundered, by David Pytches, (Nashville: Oliver Nelson), 1991, pp. 57-62.
[ix] Ibid, pp. 64-65'
[x] "In a sermon entitled 'Touch Not Mine Anointed', Benny proclaims his hatred for his critics, saved and unsaved alike: Hinn... told a story of an incident with a customs agent at a Chicago airport. Hinn said, 'Those people are mean up in Chicago, just because I am a preacher they gave me a hard time. I told that customs man, I want to see your supervisor! When I got to the supervisor’s office he said to me, "You’re just like [Jim] Baker." That made me so angry – if I could have killed him, I would have!'...Hinn continued: 'Now I’m going to tell you that God prophetically is showing us in the Psalms, that the body of Jesus Christ in America will sooner or later become militant, and say: ‘We’ve had it! You touch us one more time and, DROP DEAD BROTHER.’” The Confusing World of Benny Hinn, by G. Richard Fisher and M. Kurt Goedelman, pp. 208-9.
[xi] For a while in the mid-1990's, Deere was apparently scheduled to take over Grace Training Center here at MCF, but circumstances never seemed to favor him doing so. According to his web site, he is currently involved with teaching the apostolic governmental paradigm in conjunction with C. Peter Wagner's Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs, and doing conferences with Cain, Bickle and Rick Joyner. See http://www.efminc.org/about.htm.
[xii] The Quest For The Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, by Bill Jackson, (Cape Town, SA: Vineyard International Publishing), 1999, p. 211.
[xiii] Taped interview of Bob Jones with Mike Bickle, ca. 1988.
[xiv] Mike today though, disavows that idea and says he now believes more in a unity of spirit than structure among city pastors. But I can't say for sure what he really believes about this.
[xv] Check out http://www.streamsministries.com/. Hit "Resources" at bottom of page.
[xvi] This of course, is a concept frought with a lot of contradictions. See part 3 of "Last Days Leaven", points 7 and 5.
The Kingdom Gospel Messenger
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.