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Mike Bickle
Mike Bickle 1990's

"Vintage Metro"

My Eight Years With The Kansas City Prophets" (Part Three)
© Tricia Tillin March 2002

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INTRODUCTION

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. 

Era 3. The Vineyard Years.

The combination of the arrival of these personalities, the solidifying of Restorationist doctrine, their sudden notoriety, and now combined with the resultant attitudes this all created, brought Kansas City Fellowship to a place of unnecessary strife and controversy with other churches in the area by the last years of the 1980's. They of course saw their problem as being attitudinal, that is, pride and elitism.  To me, it was more the product of their messed up thinking. 

This trend was only helped along by the pressure put on them with the coming of the Ernie Gruen expose in January of 1990.  It was at that time that Gruen gave his famous, "Do We Keep Smiling and Say Nothing?" sermon across town.  He followed it up with the publication of his "blue book" documenting all that was being taught, prophesied, and taking place at KCF. [xvii]   This created a great public embarassment for the group, and yet the publicity also put them further on the Charismatic map.  It was at this point that John Wimber and the Vineyard stepped in.

The history of KCF and the Vineyard is a fascinating one and could make a subject all its own here.  It started in 1979, believe it or not, years before any of the principals had even met one another.  Bob Jones claims God spoke to him then "about a group located 40 miles southeast of Los Angeles that the Lord called 'worship and compassion'". [xviii]   God also told him the Kansas City group he would meet would be called, "prophetic and intercession", and that he (Jones) would cause these two groups to "cross-pollinate". 

But the significant interaction between the two didn't begin until about January, 1988.  A few months previously, Bob Jones told Mike that John Wimber would be calling him in January, and that is exactly what took place.  John invited Mike to minister with him in England that Fall and Mike agreed.

During this period of time, both John Wimber personally, and the Vineyard movement as a whole, were going through some deep waters.  Wimber was getting criticism about his churches almost on a daily basis by the end of the 1980s, largely kicked off by Dave Hunt's courageous 1986 book, The Seduction of Christianity, wherein Hunt rightly proved that large portions of the Charismatic movement were guilty of introducing truth based on subjective experiences, New Age concepts and various heresies.  In addition, a significant number of Vineyard leaders were in sexual and other sin, Wimber's son Sean was in rebellion, and Wimber himself was struggling with sickness.  His movement seemed stagnant, discouraged and directionless. 

But his occasional encounterings of people like Mike, Paul Cain and Bob Jones he claims helped him very much, by getting from them revelation and other kinds of ministry.  Mike had encouraged Wimber during their ministry trip to England in 1988.  Jones' role in bringing Wimber's son Sean back to the Lord has already been mentioned.  And in late 1988, John met Paul Cain for the first time, who predicted his coming to and going from meeting with Wimber would be confirmed by earthquakes (which did indeed happen).  These things so impressed Wimber that it began a very intense two year-long ministry circuit partnership between himself and the Kansas City Prophets, starting about the summer of 1989, that eventuated into the making of KCF into an official Vineyard church in the middle of that two-year period.

This period was kicked off by the Vineyard's annual pastors' conference in Denver, that year.  Various of the KC Prophets ministered words during that week that included things like,

  • "God was going to raise up a faceless generation, a new breed, dread champions who would think only of righteousness and the glory of God on the earth..  They would cause the enemy to tremble."

  • "The enemy had stolen the foundational ministries of apostle and prophet from the church, but God was now restoring them.  We were seeing the emergence of the prophetic in the '80s, and they would come to maturity in the '90s.  We would begin to see a new wave of apostolic men in the '90s who would come to maturity after the turn of the millennium."

  • "God was raising up city churches that would relate governmentally to apostolic teams raised up for each city", etc. [xix]

These things give you an idea of some of the LR ideas the Kansas City people were attempting to "cross-pollinate" into the Vineyard.

As was said, since Wimber received a lot of help from the ministry of these prophets in the late 1980's, by May of 1990 he was able to return the favor.  At that point, a mini war was brewing in Kansas City between KCF and Ernie Gruen over the charges Gruen had made.  Wimber stepped in at that point offering to quench the growing controversy by providing KCF oversight and membership in the Vineyard association, something Mike had enquired about a year earlier anyhow. 

This began something of a very close but stormy six-year "marriage" between the groups that was probably not quite what Bob Jones had in mind by "cross-pollination".  Vineyard pastors began to complain that John's gratitude towards and co-laboring with these prophets was changing the priorities they felt were the core values of the Association.  It seemed to them that, far from being under discipline, the Kansas City group was getting more of Wimber's favor and influence than they were. 

Plus, the prophecies and events were bringing the Vineyard under the cloud of controversy themselves.  One of the typical complaints involved a bold, "Thus saith the Lord" type prophecy Paul Cain made about a series of meetings they had planned for the fall of 1990 in England.  Cain claims all he predicted to a group of host ministers in a planning session earlier that year was that they would see in October "revival, tokens of revival", but it is very evident that the way everyone took it was that he was expecting that the latter day outpouring would begin at that time.  Yet as Vineyard pastor Happy Lehman described it, "The trip was not as many of us had expected it to be--one with awesome creative signs and wonders, spectacular revival, and unloosing of the Holy Spirit to the degree that we have never seen previously.  Yet we all agreed it was a very powerful meeting." [xx]  

And powerful I'm sure they were.  Almost every meeting I have been in with Paul Cain has had a heavy anointing on it.  But I think this is a good example of how a person's beliefs can interfere with the accurate functioning of his spiritual gift.  Cain's eschatological expectations, coupled with his finding of the "new breed" in the Kansas City people, coupled with his advancing years, probably convinced him "the time is  now".  But things like this embarrassed many in the Vineyard.

The effect of Vineyard affiliation on the Kansas City church probably was more positive in many ways.  For one, Wimber moved John Paul Jackson from Kansas City to Anaheim where he could be better grounded in the Scriptures.  His oversight also tended to keep the more extreme elements like Joyner and Frangipane away from Kansas City and in general, probably kept things more down to earth.

The down side to all this was that KCF (now Metro Vineyard Fellowship) became somewhat cut adrift.  Their prophetic ministry was very damaging and heretical at times, but at least they were in the arena God had called them to.  Now as a Vineyard they lost that edge, and seemed (to me at least) to be very gun shy of anything controversial.  They also seemed to now become even more enamoured of the ecumenical mentality.  This is why I also call these the Languishing Years, 1990 to 1996, during which Kansas City seemed to perennially drift, no longer having any clear purpose, while trying to pretend to be a Vineyard church.

The Train To Toronto

It was during these years that I got involved as I said, but no sooner did I start to get oriented to where things were at than that the Toronto Blessing controversy hit.  I found this very disorienting at first, because it took quite a while before (1) I understood the Latter Rain eschatology behind it and, (2) I realized its connection to the 1984 Bob Jones prophecy about the Butler and the Baker.

We have mentioned this prophecy under the first era.  In 1984, both Bob Jones and another member of KCF apparently claimed they "heard the audible voice of God" telling them that in 10 years the "new wine would be poured out" just like the butler (cupbearer) was restored to his position serving Pharoah (Gen 40:13).  This had set up in the Kansas City people, as well as elements of the Vineyard now that were affected by the Prophets, an expectation about 1994. 

Well, in July of 1993, Randy Clark, a St. Louis Vineyard pastor had been so despondent about his life and ministry that he suffered a nervous breakdown and even began to contemplate suicide.  In his desperation, he took the advice of a friend to visit a Rodney Howard-Browne meeting going on in Tulsa that he thought might rejuvenate him.  Clark says he struggled with the idea because he, like I, considered Tulsa to be such a nest of heretics.  But he claims God dealt with him about that, telling him that he was "prejudiced against a part of My Body" or some such self-accusation.

The antics of Rodney Howard-Browne are legendary and how anyone could want to receive ministry from someone as wacky as him, I will never know.  If you would like my opinion of him, feel free to refer to part 4 of my "Last Days Leaven" series.  But for now, while down there, Randy Clark kept going up to get prayed for and get knocked down by the power Howard-Browne was operating under (or supposedly operating under).  This Clark took to be the anointing of God which he took back with him.  Thereafter, wherever he was sent, he was replicating these same kinds of "manifestations"--slain in the Spirit, shakings, laughter, etc.--in people he prayed for too.  But it was when he was invited to minister at John Arnott's Toronto Airport Vineyard church in January of 1994 that all heaven (or hell depending on how you look at it) broke loose. 

The result was a two-month long stint by him there with meetings every night.  Toronto eventually became a Mecca of sorts, for people all over the world to come to Canada to get "It", whatever "It" was.  And while reams of copy have been written by people (yours truly included) on the TB phenomenon, the point I want to make here is that, this supposed "wine" did not get first poured out in 1994.  It was already being "poured out" with Rodney Howard-Browne for some years at that point, and even before him in meetings in South America.  And yet the general drift of the meaning being assigned to the TB was along the lines of it being the answer to the Bob Jones prediction of 1984.

As far as the Vineyard was concerned, it at first embraced the Blessing as a true work of God.  Yet when more and more bizarre things began to surface there, such as the infamous animal sounds, the jerks and flopping, the New Age / Kundalini type manifestations and the like, the Vineyard leadership over a period of almost two years became more and more critical of what John Arnott and the Toronto people were doing.  Metro for its part amazingly never seemed to wholeheartedly embrace this movement, although at the first almost all the staff claimed to have "gotten" the blessing, and to have benefited from it.  But some still looked upon it with a bit of skepticism, including Mike and Sam Storms.

I'm not sure if my own opinion was influencing anyone against it or not at this time.  I had started sending my newsletter to all the church leaders and a few other people--probably 50 altogether out of about 1500 in the church--starting in the summer or fall of 1993.  In my articles, people could get the idea that I was not real enamoured of flakey things like this. The Kansas City church all the time I was there, always seemed to have a faction in it given over to more "hard-core" Latter Rain/Manifested Sons/general wierdness proclivities that I never resonated with at all.  I remember them always for the most part sitting over towards the left and in the front. And when the TB came to infect the body there, it was most virulently championed by that particular faction.

Nevertheless, when it first started making waves in Kansas City in the winter of 1994 it  really bothered me. What in the world were these people so excited about?  They were complaining their spiritual lives were so "dry", and that they "needed refreshing".  Myself, my prayer life was one continual happening every morning.  I also found the truth of God--i.e., sound doctrine--to be incredibly exciting, as God brought these truths alive to me every day for two hours.

As the Toronto Blessing became an increasing controversy during the rest of 1994, I found myself at times telling people to stop screaming in my ear, and respect the order of the services the leadership had ordained.  (And they would do so.  Am I to conclude then that the Holy Ghost now takes orders from me?)  I was working on some Whitewater type articles for most of that year, along with some basic theological subjects.  But from late '94 through 1995, I began to realize that there was something far deeper involved in all this.  This was when I was referred to the work of Tricia Tillin, Jewel van der Merwe and Ed Tarkowski in particular.   This was when I began learning about the Latter Rain, the Manifested Sons and the like.  Now it was all beginning to make sense, including the connection between Jones' 1984 prophecy about the butler and baker and the TB outbreak of 1994.

This all led up to an incident in the fall of 1995 with John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard.  It was announced he would be coming to do a mini-conference at the church in October.  I remember about two weeks before he arrived, I awoke one morning to the voice of the Lord Who said to me, "When John Arnott arrives, I'm going to arrange a confrontation between you and him."  To my shame, I replied to God Almighty, "Over my dead body.  I've worked hard the last three years here to establish good relationships with everyone, and I'm not about to jeopardize it all with something that'll go over like a lead balloon." 

And indeed I had.  Why, I had actually made it to being a deacon at Metro Vineyard Fellowship, fancy that!  I, who had been called by God Almighty to be a teacher in 1975 and a prophet in 1981, had attained by 1994 to the priviledge of being called of men, "Deacon, deacon!".  Real progress.

So I just put it out of my head, didn't think twice about it, just assumed it had been a demon.  Two weeks later the conference began on a Friday night.  Arnott gave a sappy, syrupy sermon about the love of the Father, pablum enough for impressionable children.  It was adequate (barely) to set us all up to not be too judgmental, God forbid, but to just check out our brains and get ready to receive this liberating whatever-it-was the next day.

The next morning I was praying as I usually do, except this time from only 6 A.M. to 7, since I had a breakfast date with some friends of mine.  Since about 1989 my 2-hour morning prayer time has been revolutionized by visions when I pray!  It's less of a devotional time than an outright happening, as God reinterprets whatever I say to Him in a visual, symbolic kind of cartoon language that is educational, revelational, and almost always incredibly funny! 

Well, as I prayed, a picture of the church sanctuary appeared before my eyes, and there was Arnott on stage, black from head to foot!  I thought to myself, Well, he certainly doesn't seem to be faring too well so far now, is he?  Also, it seemed as if that morning God "opened up a window in the Spirit" to allow Arnott himself to hear me praying, and it didn't sit well with him.  (I experience this sort of thing on almost a daily basis, although I cannot prove that others can hear me or make out very well what I'm saying at least).

At some point in my praying, I mentioned a short scene I noticed from the movie Jurassic Park as I walked through the living room the day before.  It was right at the beginning when the Sam Neill character was explaining to a young boy just how dangerous the "Raptorsaurus" with its six inch claws was.  At that, I suddenly saw in the Spirit a scene of MVF sanctuary with Arnott up on the stage, with three pure-white raptorsauruses gleefully bounding down the aisle to pounce on him and eat him alive! 

I found this all immensely amusing, but I did not have much time to ponder it, for some good friends were in town along with their pastor for the conference, and the four of us were scheduled to have breakfast before the morning session started.  After a lovely breakfast, we all headed for the meeting in high spirits.  Arnott began preaching again, but the attitude he was displaying seemed awfully arrogant to me.  In fact, it seemed as if he knew this guy he heard praying that morning was out in the audience somewhere, and since he did not receive God's dealings in that thing, he was saying things that really seemed belligerent.  In addition, he was saying inane things like, "God isn't always a gentleman", and "the Holy Spirit doesn't always do everything decently and in order," a sentiment which I could readily understand he would hold to, considering the chaos and pandemonium that is called the "Toronto Blessing".

Nevertheless, his spirit seemed very challenging, like he wanted to argue with God.  Eventually God seemed to start talking to me, saying things like, "Are you going to take that?  Get up there and prophesy to him!"  He also seemed to suddenly remind me of my experience two weeks previously, which I had pushed out of my consciousness. 

Nevertheless, I was very reluctant to do anything rash.  In fact, I had to go off twice and pray in a room, lest I be tempted to act impulsively.  After the second time, I came back determined to let it go, but as I walked toward my seat, he was being more brash than ever, and the Spirit was really "setting him up"!  So I thought to myself, "Maybe he needs to have his sermon modeled for him.  After all, they do believe in disorder, don't they?"  At that, I walked down front, pointed my finger at him and began prophesying to him that he "wasn't stewarding" this phenomenon right, that he had to get off this wierd manifestations kick or God's judgment would soon fall on it, something polite like that.

This however, immediately kicked in one of Murphy's Laws.  ("No good deed goes unpunished").  In other words, it went over like that proverbial lead balloon I had talked to God about.  I was quickly grabbed by Don Steadman who was quite aghast and dragged me out of the building.  Everyone else was dazed too that I would do something like that.  But I figured I was just acting like any other TBer who wants to do whatever he feels like in this, the latest fad wind to come blowing through the Church of the Living God, which is sitting on the truth of the ages and is bored with it, would you believe?  ("We're just so dry...We need refreshing...", whine, whine).  As far as I was concerned, this meeting and this guy's whole ministry were a whole lot more "out of order" than I was!

Nevertheless, I was really depressed afterwards.  My friends were embarrassed, my reputation was shot, and I ruined three years of relationship-building.  But the next morning, I was stunned at just how strongly God backed me up when I prayed over the whole thing.  (And I mean really stunned!  God really bore witness to the rightness of what I did.  Sometimes there are just exceptions to the rule).

This encouraged me to stand my ground when the staff sent me a letter giving what conditions I could return under.  I thought to myself, Forget you, I'm right, and so I wrote up a letter of resignation.  But the morning I planned on mailing it, as I awoke the Lord spoke to me (when else?) and said to me, "I want you to go back there and "play their game".  [His words.]  It's more important to Me for you to be there than for you to be right." 

Do you get that, Church of the Prophets?  God Almighty told me to "play your game".  Vintage Metro.

As it turned out, it wasn't but six weeks or so before the Toronto Airport Vineyard was forced by John Wimber to resign from the Vineyard Association.  For a denomination that had started out with plenty of wierd phenomena of its own, claiming it to be examples of the Holy Ghost, this thing was too much even for them.  But the whole incident represents how much of a gulf of agreement there was between my view of MVF's calling and theirs.

As a postscript to all this, about two years later, John Arnott came to speak to the 1997 conference mentioned above.  But I can tell you, he was a man of a changed attitude.  The things he said seemed to speak to me that God had really dealt with him after that incident in 1995.  In fact, the exact sense I got was that somehow God, in the weeks and months after that run-in with me, taught him that Kansas City is, as the city fathers coined it for whatever reason, "The Prophetic City", and no place to mess with.  I like it that way.

"Getting Religion" On The Latter Rain

As was mentioned earlier, starting in January of 1996 I published the first of a four-part series on the Latter Rain/Sonship teachings called, "Last Days Leaven".  By the time I got to the last of the four articles I was called on to the carpet by one of the associate pastors of the church, who said he agreed with what I said, but was upset with my style (basically of quoting from people--people like Pat Robertson, Bill Bright and our own Paul Cain). 

I thought to myself, So style is more important than substance to you?  I told him I did not like quoting from people either, but this was like a "Catch 22" in that if I didn't quote from people, my words would be so vague, people would not understand just how widespread and mainstream these sentiments were and who held them.  Yet if I did, this is how it is greeted.  I said public statements made by major Christian leaders should be publicly reviewed if needed.  It didn't seem to be a problem to the Christians of past centuries who publicly disagreed over doctrine without it having all these dire implications about judging, being unloving and the like.  Just read any commentary.  After all, we're not supposed to be in this for our own reputations anyhow, are we?  We're supposed to be finding the truth, right?

Nevertheless, according to him and the usual stock ecumenical apologetic, this was tantamount to embarrassing a brother in public. He said I should have gone to these people per Matthew 18 to resolve an offense.  I told him this was not about a personal offence.  I told him I agreed that, if the subject is so trivial it's not worth fighting over then it's like biting and devouring one another over nothing.  But these issues were anything but.  They had everything to do with being "prophetic" about the direction of God in the last days.  The Matthew 18 argument is one of the lamest excuses I know of for cutting off much-needed debate in the Body of Christ. 

I also had in the back of my mind how often such people simply don't level with you.  Sometimes they will tell you what they think you want to hear just to get you off their back.  Other times they won't even be honest with you.  I remember one time Dave Hunt telling an audience of his experience with John Wimber, as a matter of fact, and Hunt's Seduction of Christianity book.  But Hunt told us that one day he had tried repeatedly to call Wimber and ask him some questions.  He was told he was not available but John would be sure to return his call.  Hunt never received one.  Yet he heard Wimber from his own lips just shortly thereafter publicly claim that Hunt had never tried to contact him!

Finally this staffer began to bear his real suspicions.  He went so far as to accuse me of coming to MCF "to straighten everyone here out".  I can't remember if I told him this or not but I certainly was thinking it, that I had come here with no such intention, but out of necessity it had indeed turned into that!  I was not to blame if they were so uninformed as to need me to come along and point these things out to them. 

I was also quite dismayed when he informed me that Metro didn't just accept Catholics, or that he himself was a former Catholic, but that he was a Catholic!  On staff no less!  And yet he said he agreed with me about the sentiments of what I was saying (which came down squarely on the Protestant side!)  I thought to myself, well, why then did he come to this church if he's a Catholic?  Did he come like a Jesuit, to use stealth means to push the Vatican's agenda?  Yet on the other hand, this was just the sort of ethic the whole church pursued, that it was perfectly alright to go anywhere and pretend your heart's with a particular group when it's really not.  This is all done under the rubric of promoting "unity," with an end in mind of winning them over to your side (while they do the same to you).  The contradiction and hypocrisy of it all just floored me.

Another thing I found ironic during this time period was the constant references to the movie Braveheart and little TBers running around yelling, "FREEDOM!" per the example of William Wallace at his execution.  What got me though, was that this awesome movie, which chronicled the story of how disunity amongst the Scots kept them divided and conquered by the British for many years, was being used as a parable for the supposed divisiveness of Christians before the world.  This was used against those who opposed or at least stayed neutral toward the Toronto Blessing, a most speculative phenomenon at best.  Yet these "new order" types somehow turned this whole thing around to where it was the traditional Christian Gospel and its advocates who were somehow divisive and the sowers of discord among the brethren!  The whole thing reminded me of a Clinton press conference.

Beyond that, my standing with the staff did not seem to be all that bad (believe it or not)!  I never felt like I was being outright silenced or abused by them.  I just felt constantly ignored and irrelevant.  My relations with them were congenial enough though never very real or deep.  The problem was that they simply seemed to not agree with me, even when they said they did or when they said they appreciated my input. I eventually came to expect a huge, baffling and inevitable wall of silence with the publication of each article, some of which were touching upon issues specific to MVF.  This reaction may have been due to their being very busy men.  But I had the impression that the real thing going on was that they were so undecided they didn't know what to say.  At best, they were probably mentally shelving them.

But now it was mid-1996 and things at Metro Vineyard were changing.  In June of that year (1996), Paul Cain gave a message on the last night of the annual "Passion For Jesus" conference.  In it he said MVF had been guilty of a "divided heart" and needed to get back to its prophetic roots which it had abandoned due to insecurities arising from the controversies of 1990. 

The response was amazing.  Members of the leadership team seemed deeply convicted by this and went up front to kneel down and repent. I remember sitting there during the sermon thinking, "This message is really from the Lord!"  I also thought to myself, "But it's all going to depend upon how they interpret what this word means."

My cynicism was not unfounded.  Within two weeks, the leadership had decided that "getting back to their prophetic roots" meant that they had really abandoned the Toronto Airport church when the Vineyard wanted to limit what "the Spirit was doing there".  Especially when Toronto was asked to leave the Association in late 1995, they felt they had compromised their prophetic responsibilities for not standing with the unpopular thing!

I thought to myself, "They couldn't have gotten it more backwards"!  "Toronto" was far from being an "unpopular thing".  It was plastered monthly all over Charisma and other publications.  The Charismatic establishment was all behind it because it "worked" (i.e., it brought in the crowds).  Yet "Toronto" was a part of the whole Latter Rain / Ecumenical mindset that could only lead to apostasy.  The kind of crazy "manifestations" they were having there were indistinguishable from Kundalini Yoga phenomena and other demonic activity! 

A truly prophetic church would be able to see the "ancient path", to cause the people to stay on "the highway", not wander off onto "the bypaths" (Jer 18:15).

CLICK HERE TO GO TO PART FOUR

Notes:

[xvii] "Documentation of Aberrant Practices and Teachings of KCF/GM", by Ernie Gruen and associates, 1990.

[xviii] Quest, p. 198.

[xix] Ibid, pp. 206-207.

[xx] Ibid, p. 225.

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.