Mike Bickle 1990's
My Eight Years With The Kansas City Prophets" (Part One)
© 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.
If you as a believer want to understand what this movement is really about, you must avail yourself of a practice that is in much disdain in our day. It's called theological education! And I'm not just talking about Bible study! You desperately need to understand that the Bible itself needs to be accurately interpreted as to what it is saying and teaching. You need to understand that there are competing theological paradigms that people in church leadership will not educate you to, either because they don't understand them themselves, or because it's to their advantage to keep you ignorant of them, leading you around by the nose, perhaps for years, before you figure out what it's all about..
If you do not do this, you will not be able to appreciate the importance of what I and many others are trying to say to you. Instead, you will be brainwashed into "submission to authority" and other intimidating arguments in a way that is far removed from traditional Protestant philosophy. You will end up doing as they tell you, instead of what Christ your Head is telling you (I Cor 11:3), even letting you study the Bible while not seeing the forest for the trees. The only way around this is to see the big picture.
You can find numerous articles here by Tricia Tillin, the founder and webmaster of this site, that represent the best research out there that I've found.
SUMMARY PAGES OF USEFUL ARTICLES
- Summary page of ALL articles, in their categories
- Summary page and links to articles on Latter Rain/Sonship articles
- Summary page and links to articles on Dominion/Restoration
- Summary page and links to articles on the Apostasy in general
SEE Historical records(video, audio and text) on the website of Mike Bickle today: http://mikebickle.org/resources/series/38
I would begin by referring to those under the headings of "Sonship and Latter Rain" and "Dominion Teachings". [i] I would especially start with "Bread and Games", a history of the Charismatic Movement in Britain which shows how Restorationism came about.
I myself in 1996 wrote a four-part series on the Latter Rain / Manifested Sons doctrines called "Last Days Leaven", (located under "Dominion Teachings"), that traces the origins and mentality of some of these ideas.
And if you would like an even more thorough yet concise overview, read "Anointing or Apostasy: The Latter Rain Legacy", by Charles S. Graves. The following story in conjunction with these studies will help you understand why all this is important, and help you resist the pressure of those who would slander the work on this web site with pejorative charges like "negative", or "divisive" - DRC (Romans 16:17,18)
From a Sunday to a Sunday--November 1, 1992 to May 7, 2000, exactly 17 years after the start of their famous 21-day fast--I was a member of Metro Christian Fellowship of Grandview, Missouri, USA, the church that became known as the home of "The Kansas City Prophets".
I can say that I was a faithful member all that time, but I cannot say I was part of any inner circle. Certainly not on staff, and I was even shown by God in 1997, despite being mired in a momentary fit of guilt and self-accusation, that He didn't even want me to warm up to the leadership on a personal level, but to "remain aloof" as He put it! It quite astounded me at the time and kind of reminded me of the answer Winston Churchill once gave to a reporter who asked him if he supported the Church? "Yes, I support it. Like a flying buttress from the outside!"
t didn't start out that way. I had every intention when I first arrived there to give my heart and soul to that work. I really believed in its [original] calling and still believe in it, whether they do or not, and whether they want to be the ones to carry it out or not. I also believe they were given a great honor and a great opportunity by God--to be a desperately-needed prophetic voice to the Body of Christ at an hour when discernment of the Biblical, Pre-Millennial and Post-Tribulational vision of the end has never been needed more. But I am also convinced they never really understood this Divine purpose and if anything have done as much to promote the exact opposite cause--to help build the Global Church that will eventuate into the Great Whore of Revelation 17.
That these people, like all others in this ever-evolving ecumenical nightmare, would deny that their efforts are that misguided I do not doubt. But that is inconsequential to the reality of what is happening. As the old saying goes, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". Or as Jesus put it, "A time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God" (Jn 16:2 NIV). For as Church history has proved so many times, the persecutors of true Christians have often come as much from other professing believers as from those outside.
I believe they also used, innocently perhaps, their early miracles and the prophetic gifts associated with them as "goodwill capital" to put them "on the map" in the naive Charismatic world, which is neither naturally given to using discernment, nor is inclined to care much about doctrinal paradigms. As a result, they became the major reintroducers and popularizers of Latter Rain, Manifested Sonship and Restoration/Dominion ideas back into the Church world, whether they or anyone else understand what that means or not. As a result, they over time actually became part of a wide-spread and majority network of false prophets in the Body of Christ that continues to this hour.
If those seem like extravagant and wild accusations, I assure you of my sympathies. But I also assert I can prove their veracity and relevance if you have the willingness to just give me a hearing. And while I know I am not the final Judge of anyone, I nonetheless as all Christians, do have an obligation to judge people and doctrines as best and as fairly as I can (Ro 16:17; I Cor 6:2-5). For far from commanding us to suspend our judgment, the Bible teaches us to do just the opposite. Developing good judgment is a large part of God's whole purpose for His people (I Cor 2:15; 6:2-5; etc.). The only caveats deal with judging fairly (Jn 5:30; 8:15,16), unhypocritically (Mt 7:2; Ro 2:21-24), and with a sense of proportion (Mt 7:3; 23:23,24).
In my opinion, on an intellectual level, I believe the doctrinal problems continually dogging these people are a result of the errors mentioned above. On a heart level, what I think led them astray is the desire for large crowds and the popularity and prestige that is routinely accorded those who are willing to tickle the ears of the people of God. And to be sure, the tickling of Christian ears in our day is a wholesale industry. Despite the plain warnings of Scripture that false prophets "make you vain" (Jer 23:16), and that the last days will be a time of "great deception" and persecution, there seems to be a never-ending supply of such ministers in this hour who regale the people of God with just the opposite--brash claims of great things to come and tall tales about the last days. And despite a great invitation by God to be His eyes and ears, the Kansas City Prophets are a case study in how to get the basic instructions exactly backwards.
I remember the first week I got to Metro Vineyard (as it was then called). It was November 2, 1992 and the time of the unveiling of a grand, sweeping plan for a comprehensive "Arts Ministry"--music, dance, drama, comedy, fine art, literature--the works. Although I had begun my newsletter about three years before in Tulsa, the epicenter of the Word of Faith movement, I decided to temporarily suspend it and develop some personal relationships in my new church home by signing up myself. At the founding organizational meeting, the first thing out of the mouth of its director David Ruis was, "This is vintage Metro Vineyard."
It seemed to me at the time as if the Holy Ghost for some unknown reason, instantly and pointedly seized upon what Ruis said, as if God were trying to clue me in on something. I couldn't at the time figure out what that could be, but looking back now I can see it. Within a year the project was dropped. Abandoned. It's part of a running metaphor that typifies, not just the floundering and flailing of this particular church, but that of the entire Body of Christ in our generation. "Vintage Metro" refers in this article to this lack of vision, this lack of doctrinal grounding, to this tendency to drift, to follow the same old fruitless patterns over and over again, to try anything that will "work", to leave the people in the dark as to what leadership is doing or teaching, or to themselves grope in the dark for some mysterious "key" ministry, teaching, or revelation that will make everything else "click", that will unlock the power of God on its body life.
Everything, that is, except its real calling--to have real discernment, and to be a real prophetic voice to the Body of Christ and to the end-times generation we live in. In retrospect, the memory of some guy, dressed up in a huge, pink, EverReady bunny costume on New Year's Eve a couple of months after this meeting, marching up and down the aisles beating on a drum, only reinforces my sense of God's sarcasm over what He has had to endure in this church's history.
Unfortunately, I cannot say I was a part of Kansas City Fellowship at its beginning. If I had been, I could report on a first-hand basis what happened during its first ten years. As it turned out, I didn't arrive until late 1992 when it was already "under discipline", and into the Vineyard years of its history. I also use the term "Kansas City Fellowship" because that was the name they became famous for, the name they adopted in the mid-1980's, and the name that was their real identity in the Spirit as far as I am concerned, at least in the hopes and dreams of God. After a local Charismatic pastor named Ernie Gruen blew the whistle on them in 1990, the church joined the AVC (Association of Vineyard Churches) headed by its founder John Wimber, whose job was to act as an overseer to rein in their wayward ways. At that time, their name was changed to "Metro Vineyard Fellowship" (now "Metro Christian Fellowship", since their separation from the AVC).
But I see them in the Spirit as having that "genetic identity" as Kansas City Fellowship. During the 1980's they became known as the home of Grace Ministries and the "Kansas City Prophets," as Charisma magazine dubbed them. As I said, they became a major force in the popularizing of "Restoration", "Latter Rain" and "Manifested Sonship" ideas, although at the time I arrived I had hardly ever heard of the terms and couldn't have defined them if my life depended on it. What little I understood was that "restoration" to me, in my naivete, simply meant the restoration of the first century Church's simplicity and power. This included the role of the prophet, which I agreed, had been somewhat ignored, suppressed or underdeveloped over the centuries, and simply needed to be "restored" in a more deliberate and positive way during the last days.
But in time I came to realize that, to this church and the network of ministries around the world it relates to, it signified something far more--an entire eschatology that went far beyond this, with an ultimate goal of bringing the Kingdom of God on the earth before Christ's physical return, by the emergence of restored Apostles and Prophets who would rule over a world-wide Church that would be a radical redefinition of what it currently is. Most alarming was the idea of the supposed "restoration" of these two "offices" [ii] to be governing rulers over the people of God through a pyramidical, world-wide, interlocking network of apostles and prophets, roles that never existed in the early Church. Through this, it is presumed, a final "Sonship/Bride" generation, a "Joel's Army" of the "Manifested Sons of God" (Ro 8:19), would come forth, so anointed and endued with miracles as to be virtually invincible, subduing the nations.
Key people in this prophetic group may protest, of course, that they don't take things that far, or that such is a caricature of what they believe. And they may be right, relative to what leader you're talking about, what they believed, and when they believed it. But for reasons apparently common to all churches subject to the brow-beating of ecumenical logic in our day, a coherent and unified eschatology has never been much of a priority to this group either. "It's just too divisive" is the usual whiney and lame argument you hear made in church circles today. Or it's considered a "non-essential".
But I consider this to be utterly irrelevant if indeed ours is the generation in which these things will no longer be "academic"! But even if one wishes to cast it as an issue of academic freedom so to speak, the problem at MCF I saw was that the only eschatological vision they seemed interested in was one of incredible end-time revival, a harvest of one or two billion souls, an invincible "Joel's Army" overwhelming everything in its path, 24 hour prayer and praise centers (in every city of the world mind you!), huge stadium meetings, unbelievable miracles, and non-stop glory. Yet it's a vision not born out of anything solidly derived from what Christ, Paul, John or Daniel plainly told us to watch out for, but based on the subjective experiences and exegetical speculations of "prophetic people".
As I will attempt to show in this article, I am not totally unsympathetic with some of these sentiments (of a great impact by the Church in the last days). The problem is, they are promoted to the exclusion (if not to the outright opposition) of the "more sure word of prophecy" of the Scriptures (II Pet 1:19) about conditions that we have been forewarned about. KCF leadership from the beginning, and in vintage Metro fashion, seems to have consistently had this bent toward such "new order" ideas, even when claiming to be Pre-Millennial. The fact that they may have corrected or outright jettisoned some of the most egregious extremes of these ideas from the 1980's does not change the fact that this same basic emphasis is still there. And it stands in contrast to what Premillennialism has always been built on, namely a literal, rather than an allegorical, reading of the Bible, and a Second Coming after a Great Tribulation, wherein the Church spiritually overcomes the Devil (Rev 2:17,26; 12:11), true, but is "defeated" in the flesh by the Antichrist (Dan 7:21,25;Rev 13:7; 12:11,17). Yet to this day (at Shiloh and IHOP), the preoccupation is with teachings, concepts and hermeneutical styles that either imply or outright proclaim Latter Rain / Manifested Sonship / Dominion thinking. At the very least it suggests confusion on their part if not outright self-deception, and certainly generates the same in the ears of those that hear them.
My Own Enlightenment
I myself did not see this bigger picture until about 1995. As I said, when I first got there, I had a simplistic assumption that "Restoration" was a good thing. But within a few years I was referred to the works of Tricia Tillin, Ed Tarkowski and Jewel van der Merwe especially, that helped me understand there was an entire eschatology involved here. What they helped me see was what I was suspecting by that time but could not quite put my finger on or articulate. The concepts being promoted by this church were all part of a vision of the end that clashed with what I believe the Bible really teaches about the same.
What I'm referring to here is the clash between Latter Rain, et.al., and traditional Pre-Millennial eschatology. And while I hate taking the risk of losing your interest here by going over a lot of theological definitions, I do not see how you can understand the real significance of this ministry without understanding these things.
The problem here is not just about occasional bad prophecies; it's about an entirely wrong vision of the future. Latter Rain is built on this vision of a last days outpouring so powerful as to ensure the Church's ultimate victory over all of mankind and mankind's institutions. It's the idea of the "early rain" (Pentecost) and the "latter rain" (Tabernacles) at the same time. This is based on an eschatological and metaphorical interpretation of Joel 2:23 in a way I basically agree with. But in Latter Rain theory, its implications are taken so far as to be totally unrealistic.
It also puts forth this idea that the Church is founded upon modern-day apostles and prophets [iii] , and the belief the denominational system will be destroyed before the Second Coming and be replaced by a whole new Church structure governed over by these apostles and prophets. This, they claim, will bring about the fulfillment of Jesus' prayer in John 17:21 for complete unity so that the world might believe God sent Christ.
But this is incredibly short-sighted and ignorant, and that for at least two reasons. One, some Christians who assent to this all-consuming priority on unity in our day will then fall for the siren song of Rome to "come back home" to "Mother Church". (And this in spite of the Vatican in our day actively working to unite the world's religions and re-build the "Holy Roman Empire" in close cooperation with the evolving European Union). Or two, Latter Rainers will at the least end up wasting our time and theirs with a pipe dream plan to make apostles and prophets "governing offices", as if that were some sort of a panacea bringing revival.
There are about 14 other distinctives that make up the Latter Rain theory but we don't have time here to go into them. For a more in-depth analysis of them, read parts two and three of my "Last Days Leaven" series.
For now, let's look at two more of them, including Restorationism, which puts forth a myth about what the early Church was really like, then claims this mythical "apostolic" and "prophetic" governmental structure must be "restored" before God will really pour out His power on the Church. What it really becomes though is a rationale for going far beyond anything the early Church had or supposedly had, into a "Super Church" at the end like the world has never known, "nor can even conceive of at this point", blah, blah, blah. It also in some versions actually claims it will "restore" the whole earth from the curses put on it by God, just as soon as His people corporately learn and implement this "knowledge", blah, blah, blah. It also sanctions the use of zealous revenge on all of "God's enemies", inside and outside the Church, including those "Pharisees" (the "old order" Bible-oriented saints) who try to resist this juggernaut.
Another is Manifested Sonship, the idea that an elite core of the last generation will attain to a "fullness" of holiness, power and anointing that will lead the Church into a massive, overwhelming victory over all worldly forces currently arrayed against it. This is based on a faulty interpretation of Romans 8:19 which simply refers to the "manifestation" (or presentation, with Christ, and at His Second Coming) of the sons of God (i.e., the redeemed of the ages--Rev 19:14; Mt 24:30). MS transforms them though, into a generational company of people who experience immortality (or nearly so), perfection, victory over all enemies (disease, the devil, human enemies) and the like, depending on what version you hear. And all this without Christ actually physically returning to the earth, but rather, by effecting a mystical "Second Coming" in His people, the Corporate Christ.
These doctrines all relate to a larger context to consider, the idea of basic Millennial templates. There are four broad theories regarding how God is going to go about redeeming the future and "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21 NAS), all revolving around a particular belief about the reference to a "thousand years" or "Millennium" (taken from Rev 20:4). The Pre-Millennial view basically sees Jesus Christ coming back to the earth "pre" or before a literal thousand year reign by Him on the throne of David out of Jerusalem wherein Israel will be exalted among the nations and God will begin a long process of redeeming the earth from the effect of the fall of man in Genesis 3. After that thousand year period, there will be New Heavens and a New Earth, the Day of Judgment and the eternal state. It generally interprets the Bible, including the prophecies, in a literal way, and sees the book of Revelation as being "futuristic"--that is, largely unfulfilled until the end. Furthermore, Pre-Millennialism is either "Classical" or "Dispensational", the significance of which (as far as we are concerned here) deals with where one places the timing of what's called the "Rapture" or translation of living believers into the resurrected state, relative to the Second Coming.
In competition to this, Amillennialism was developed by St. Augustine in the fifth century A.D., teaching that there either is no Millennium to come or that the Church Age is itself the Millennial reign of Christ right now through His people on the earth. [iv] It sees good and evil increasing side by side until at some unknown point Christ returns, has the Last Judgment, and inaugurates the eternal state. It claims the book of Revelation and the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lu 21) were fulfilled in the first century and are not a futuristic description of the Last Days. It also sees the re-gathering of the nation of Israel and the events in the Middle East today as being fairly irrelevant, since the Church has replaced Israel in the plan of God and all the Old Testament prophecies about Israel in the last days are taken figuratively and spiritualized to refer to the Church. It is an eschatology developed by, and retained by, Rome, and by a number of Protestant denominations, especially the earliest ones.
In later centuries, the Post-Millennial theory was developed, putting forth the idea that the Church, through aggressive evangelism and the infiltration of mankind's institutions, will eventually achieve "Dominion" over the world. From that point on, Christ will "reign" from heaven through His Church on the earth for a thousand years or some specified period of time, after which comes the Second Coming, the Last Judgment, and the New Heavens and Earth. Like Amillennialism, it too posits the idea that Revelation is not futuristic. It is the natural harmony of these Latter Rain / Dominion concepts with these latter two theories (especially Post-Millennialism), that sets up the clash and controversy with Pre-Millennialism (such as this web site champions).
As complex as this all may sound to you, I must point out two other factors that make it even worse, and contribute to the sort of confusion and "talking past one another" that so characterizes this debate. Firstly, there is one major similar sentiment between these two competing visions. Whereas Latter Rain et.al., look forward to a last days period of time of tremendous outpouring and miracles, Classical Pre-Millennialism itself also believes the same. Some versions of Classical Pre-Millennialism do allow for a latter rain outpouring based on Joel 2:23 during that 3 1/2 year time period called the Great Tribulation (Rev 11:2,3; 13:5; Dan 7:25). It is seen to be the time of a second "Christ ministry" of equal and greater miracles than the 3 1/2 years of His First Advent (Jn 14:12), this time from Heaven but through His people on earth. At least, that is the way this writer sees it.
It's just that the difference is a matter of form and degree. Latter Rain / Manifested Sonship so exaggerates the power of God during this period of time that they either imply or outright claim virtual invincibility by His people. So much so that they end up denying, in a de facto sense at least, that the Bible teaches it will be a period of great persecution and "defeat" as well (Mt 24:9; Rev 6:9-11; 20:4; Dan 7:21), or at the least conveniently ignoring such Scriptures to hype so-called "present-day 'truths'".
Secondly, some "Restorationists" seem to cloak their purposes under a banner I call a "technical Pre-Millennialism". That is, they will trumpet their vision of this invincible juggernaut sweeping the earth, and then say Christ will return for a thousand year Millennial reign immediately thereafter. That way they can say that they too, are "Pre-Millennial".
But such a definition does violence to the traditional meaning of what Pre-Millennialism is. The picture painted in the Olivet Discourse and elsewhere is of a much more dark and deceitful scenario (Mt 24:24; I Thess 5:3, etc.). In addition, the heart of Pre-Millennialism is defined by distinctives like Daniel's 70th Week, the Great Tribulation of a specific duration (3 1/2 or 7 years, depending on one's interpretation), world government and its Antichrist dictator, the significance of the rebirth of Israel, the invasion of Israel by the Arab nations (Eze 38, 39), Armaggedon, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, etc, etc. Yet in all of this, the idea of a "second 3 1/2 year ministry of Christ from heaven" with great miracles, etc., is much more sketchy, is more speculative, and is certainly not central, even though it may bear some resemblance to the Latter Rain hope.
But if such people take this idea and build one vain fantasy after another upon it while ignoring the "meat and potatoes" mentioned above, they hardly deserve to be called "Pre-Millennial". It isn't an essentially honest and relevant portrayal of what the scenario will look like. And as far as I can tell, almost all the Kansas City Prophets see the thing playing out this way. Worse yet, some of their friends around the world may be even more bold for a full-blown Post-Millennial hope.
What Does It Mean?
All these theories entail a whole lot more than we have space to develop here. To get a more complete understanding, you have to study them to become familiar with them. That is why I suggested the articles I did in the very beginning. In them you'll find that these teachings vary a lot depending upon the individual teacher and how far they take them. You'll find, for instance, that a lot of the confusion around them stems from what exactly is meant by a "victorious end-times Church"? By "victorious" or "overcomers", does one mean "faithful unto death" if need be (Rev 12:11)? Or does it mean "bowl over all who stand in their way"? The first is valid, the second is not. But it's the second that is the sense which is most implied if not outright stated in these circles because it so plays to the gallery.
Latter Rain then usually becomes a subset of some sort of a Post-Millennial expectation. It thus finds itself in an uncomfortable "no man's land" regarding the question of whether the Olivet Discourse (Mt 24; Mk 13; Lu 21) is yet future or fulfilled in the first century. It claims that that latter day outpouring will be so powerful that the "Joel's Army" Church of that day will be unstoppable and invincible, with unbelievable miracles. Hence all the exaggeration, boasting and outdoing of one another in scenario-painting and wild predictions as the people of God flock to get their vain ears tickled. "But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings", Jeremiah said of the false prophets (Jer 23:22).
Regardless, the upshot of the controversy surrounding these ideas is the effect they have, and that in at least three ways.
One, the hyperbole (exaggeration) of future glory to come is so extreme that it is irresponsible at the least and dangerous at the most. It makes the people of God vain and dull, and renders them unable to "instruct many" in those days (Dan 11:33), while it gives a false hope to the world at the very moment when it needs discernment the most to understand what is going on.
Two, such unrealistic and vain expectations lead to deception. It sets people up to expect and look for miracles, not caring what their source is, as has been seen in the "Toronto Blessing" phenomena, in "Fatima" and other Catholic miracles, in the "angels" craze of our day, and such like (II Cor 11:14). This is alarming considering Christ Himself especially warned us about deception in the Last Days (Mt 24:11,24,38,48-51; Rev 3:17; 13:13-15; II Thess 2:9-11).
Three, the emphasis on unity plays right into Catholic Amillennial eschatology, which seeks to bring "peace on earth", (especially as a broker for peace in the Middle East). But this sets people up for I Thessalonians 5:3--"For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them..."
Since Rome sees herself as the "Mother Church", she is the one who is ultimately behind the ecumenical movement, seeking to bring the "separated brethren" back into the fold. She believes if she can convince all sects to reunite with her, she will be fulfilling John 17:21, and thus all the world will believe in Christ. At that point (so they believe), they will bring "peace on earth" (especially in the Middle East!) She's also in the forefront of inter-religion ecumenism as well. And while the Dominion / New Order camp may not be planning to totally align with her, their tactics nonetheless leave them and those who listen to them in a most precarious position. One, because they will not really have a logical rationale for resisting reunion with Rome (such as current Protestantism does). And two, because these people, so convinced are they of their ultimate victory, care not a whit about how they get there. If alliance with Rome swells their numbers and helps them accomplish their "dominion", then why not? If they have to stoop to the same devious tactics Rome uses herself, why not?
Either way, this all sets Christian people up for the ecumenical Great Harlot Church warned about in Revelation 17. It also sets them up to take any "signs and wonders" without having to worry a whole lot about their source (Rev 13:13-16). As John Arnott of Toronto Blessing fame has so often put it, "Some people have more faith in the Devil's ability to deceive than the Father's ability to bless." Thanks, but I think I'll take the Father's warning all the same (Mt 24:24).
What Went Wrong?
It seems to me that during the first couple of years of Kansas City Fellowship, from late 1982 when it officially was incorporated, until about 1985, God was doing an incredible work in their midst. Amazing miracles, "coincidences", and fulfilled prophecies, along with a supernatural gathering of key personnel characterized this time period. God it seems was trying to give it a good start in the Spirit. But, as best I can reconstruct it, this good start was lost with the continual percolation of these kinds of ideas, and the favor shown to those who championed them.
Nevertheless, in spite of these things, it seemed to me that God had still worked in the early 1980's to bring these kinds of "prophetic people" together to be a ministry that would alert the Body of Christ to the things happening around them in the last days. But it seems that every anointed vessel called to that place that had any real discernment or a realistic end-times understanding got booted out, while those who promulgated the most vain things were promoted.
Bob Jones was probably most to blame at the start, for regardless of where he picked them up, there is no doubt he was not shy to promote the most outlandish LR/MSOG doctrines, mixing them in with his own subjective experiences. The arrival of John Paul Jackson in 1985 only seemed to reinforce this trend, and in fact, may have introduced a demonic influence at times, or a mixture at best. From that point on, excessive control through the gift of personal prophecy made for a most oppressive setting. Other heresies such as his extreme "Jezebel Spirit" teaching along with the church's attitude problems almost totally neutralized that good beginning. The arrival of Paul Cain in 1987 only reinforced the dominance of Latter Rain / Manifested Sons influence.
By 1990, Gruen's expose brought all this to a grinding halt. The KC Prophets were featured in Charisma again during this time, but now as a ministry under the gun for these things. For the most part, what confessions made at the time seemed to revolve around general admissions of pride and high-handedness. But as far as I can tell, the real source, doctrinal error, was never dealt with, mostly because it was never recognized.
I believe I attended my first Kansas City Fellowship conference around 1989. I think it was in the fall and on "Spiritual Warfare". Over the next two or three years I attended their annual "Passion For Jesus" summer conference. At the time I had been living in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the home of the "Word of Faith" movement. I had moved to Tulsa in 1984, having been sent there by God directly after two years spent in the Philippines working with a friend in the Assemblies of God.
To go there was no insignificant challenge to me. I virtually despised the Word of Faith Movement! I thought it was the rankest of heresies and was destroying the Charismatic Movement, and eight years in their midst only served to reinforce this belief. Nevertheless, I could not shake the sense God wanted me there, and the amazing confirmation miracles strewn in the path of my arriving there. All in all it proved to be a rancorous, contentious eight years there. I felt the burning jealousy of God upon me for His truth, although it degenerated into just my own flesh at times. But by the Spring of 1992 I was really burned out, and sensed God was preparing me for a change.
Thus it was that in June of 1992, I found myself at the week-long Metro Vineyard "Passion For Jesus" conference in Kansas City. On Saturday morning I awoke ready to get in my car, go back to Tulsa, and get back to work. But as I awoke, the Lord very clearly spoke to me.. He said, "I want you to stay for the Sunday services." It was so clear I said, "O.K." and made arrangements with my host family to do so.
That Saturday I read the book Some Said It Thundered by David Pytches. This book was a biography and history of the Kansas City Fellowship. I was aware that they had been involved in some controversies but hadn't paid a lot of attention to them. As far as I was concerned, the ministry of the prophet was not an easy one and deserved to get some slack cut toward it. I myself had been called by God to that kind of a ministry in 1981, and anyone who was at least trying to move in that gift was, in my mind, to be commended.
But what I learned from that book amazed me. It covered the events surrounding Mike Bickle's call from St. Louis back to his hometown of Kansas City to start this new work that would "touch the world" with the "message of the prophetic". I read about the early miracles that attended this decision, and about how people like Bob Jones, Noel Alexander and others had apparently been prepared by God to come together to be a part of this work. And I read about the famous 21-day fast beginning May 7, 1983 that they felt God call them to commit to.
This fast was itself quite amazing for at least two reasons. One, Bob Jones had predicted the appearance of a great comet in the sky that science would not be expecting and that it would be a sign that this fast was from God. And as it turned out, that's exactly what happened! On May 7, 1983, the media announced that a major comet had been discovered, surprising the scientific world, right when this little congregation was beginning their fast!
But as amazing as this miracle was, it was the second thing that really floored me! It referred to an event that took place about six months later, towards the end of 1983. According to Mike Bickle, at the end of the fast, instead of an immediate breakout of revival or a supernatural move by God as they were hoping for, Jones got up and announced that the entire region would experience a three-month drought (which turned out to be true), and that KCF itself would go through three years of humiliation. This proved to be very discouraging to the church and by the fall of 1983 a lot of doubt had set in. Thus it was that on November 7, Bob Jones called on Mike and told him that, "The Lord says that you are an unbelieving people...He says that He will give you yet one more sign!...straight from heaven...On November 15 the word of the Lord will come to you in such a way that you will not waver in unbelief again." [v]
Mike relates that he spent all of November 15 waiting on the Lord, yet nothing happened that seemed like a sign out of heaven. That night, a while before midnight, he decided to give up and go through some mail sent to him. In it he found a book by a Baptist named Howard O. Pittman who died in 1979 and went to heaven. Pittman relates how Jesus sent him back to earth with a message that included two things. One, this is the Laodicean Age, and Christ "could find hardly a pure thing in the Church today." And two, that He was going to begin to spew this lukewarm Laodicean Church world out of His mouth in a slow process beginning May 7, 1983!
In the book, Mike says that he found all this astounding to him. The comet, the fast, and now this message straight from Heaven given to Howard O. Pittman four years earlier, all revolving around May 7, 1983! I found it astounding too, because the plain implication was that God wanted very much for KCF to be in the forefront of this spewing process! Mike it seems "got it" too at that time, relating in the book that God seemed to speak plainly to him to, "Take this message to the world." Yet when I asked him about this incident during one of several long talks we had my first few years in Kansas City, he disavowed any special significance to it for Metro beyond it just "being a sign" for their encouragement, that "God would [indeed] send revival to KCF". This lack of agreement as to the significance of this incident explains my basic lack of agreement with Mike and the other leaders, as to what God's purpose for this fellowship was meant to be all along.
Why do Mike and the others now feel this way, twenty years later? I don't know for sure, but my explanation for such a tepid response to God is two-fold. It is partly the "once bitten, twice shy" principle. And it's partly the oppressive influence of ecumenical logic in the Church world today. Having been exposed by Ernie Gruen in 1990 and it turning into such a nation-wide publicity nightmare for them, I have the distinct impression that KCF determined thereafter to avoid controversy as much as possible. Yet at the same time, it might be better to say they determined thereafter to avoid certain kinds of controversy, meaning, "anything that would jeopardize the ecumenical philosophy". To create outrageous controversy in the Body of Christ, such as their friends and spiritual progeny like the Toronto-ites have now championed, in seeking to bring civil war to the Church over what Christians are to think of their highly speculative "manifestations", apparently is not a problem as long as ecumenism is based on esoteric experiences and sentimentality. Neither is assuming that anything that catches on in the Charismatic world to become part of the "raging river" of the multi-stream, ever-evolving end-times Church a problem! Such contradictions are just vintage Metro (and for that matter, vintage Charismania).
The problem KCF had by 1990 though, was that the controversy they had stirred up was not for any righteousness on their own but for their folly. Mike told me that he and the staff felt that 90% of Gruen's expose of them was "of the devil." Yet to me it was just the opposite! After reading Gruen's 200-page "blue book" against KCF and checking the charges out, I felt he was 90% right! From 1985 to 1990, the Kansas City Prophets had really floundered. They had a lot of attitude problems that they freely admit to, true, but they never agreed with my contention that what was at the heart of a big part of those mistakes was some serious error regarding God's truth (in general) and vision for their church (in particular).
Nevertheless, getting back to that night in June of 1992, reading the Some Said It Thundered book about all the personalities and miracles associated with the fellowship, I was duly impressed at the time. But being very tired that night, I fell asleep around 8 P.M. and awoke Sunday at 3:30 A.M. As I did so God spoke again very clearly to me saying, "I want you to move up here and be a part of this church. It's a big part of My plan for your life." And then He said, "And make sure you don't run off but stay for the evening service."
Well, I was very willing to stay for the evening service, but to move up here was quite a decision to make! I prayed more about it but fortunately had quite an "open Heaven" that morning. And since it was so early I had plenty of time to do so and concluded that it "really was the Lord." [vi]
That morning at Metro Vineyard, I went up to Mike Bickle to tell him of what I felt God had told me (less the part about the evening service). He was very happy to hear that and encouraged me to go ahead and do so. I had "known" Mike somewhat through my newsletter, having put him on my mailing list from its very beginning in 1989, after I read an article about him and thought my subject matter would be things he would be interested in. When I went out of my way at another conference in 1991, I believe, to introduce myself he was very flattering in his praise of my writings.
But what happened that night at the evening service was quite miraculous to me. Paul Cain preached, and after his sermon he began to give out what he is most famous for, his personal words. They were written on 3 by 5 cards with notes he had taken while in prayer that afternoon. One of them was for "a Don from Tulsa." He went on to describe both me, my ministry and the nature of my experiences in Tulsa with great accuracy. He then said God was moving me on to a "new group of people" in a way that would "entail a change of location", and that this was from the Lord and it would be a great blessing for me as I acted to obey it. He finished by saying that this was a "confirmation of what you already know." And he did all this without calling me out or asking me to identify myself.
Mike was sitting behind him on the stage at that point, grinning from ear to ear. Afterwards he came up to me and said, "Well, what'd ya think of that!? Did it bear witness?" I assured him it did. In fact I was quite impressed. Until then, I had watched as Cain gave out words, but as I did not usually know the people he was referring to, I didn't have much of an opinion as to how accurate his much vaunted gift was. But I can say I experienced it first-hand that night! I can also say that I did not and do not today believe the two of them collaborated in any way to manipulate me by that word. I believe Paul just gave out what he received in prayer that afternoon about me. Nevertheless, what enamourment I may have had of Paul Cain and Metro Vineyard that night did not last very long.
A Quick Education
Because of those experiences that day, I moved to Kansas City in late 1992 with a clear assurance that this was from God. At first I immersed myself in personal relationships and, after eight raucous years in Tulsa, was not inclined to want to find anything amiss here in Missouri. That is, until two events of the following year quickly began to shake my confidence in the discernment of the group I now felt so clearly called to.
The first took place within two months of my arrival. In January of 1993, Rick Joyner and Paul Cain published an article in the former's MorningStar Prophetic Bulletin. Bill Clinton had just been elected President (three days after I got there as a matter of fact), and this article claimed revelation from God that He wanted to "use Bill Clinton to bring blessing to America." It talked about how Clinton's incredible relativism and indecisiveness were supposed "strengths" and how God was going to come upon him and "turn him into another man" (I Sam 10:6), to "carry out God's policy with a depth of conviction that will surprise even his most vehement detractors." Furthermore, it warned God's people that the young President is "better than we deserve", and "represents a reprieve from the New World Order", while the Christian Right was characterized as a potential new Nazi movement!
I was utterly dumbstruck! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry! I just could not get over the naivete of all this. Bill Clinton would be no blessing on America, but a curse and a judgment and a test! I already "knew" people like Bill and Hillary very well, based on the fact I was just like them in college back in the Sixties, and based on what I already knew about their scandals that eventually emerged with time. So when I read this article in early 1993, I was speechless. Is Paul Cain, the man who practically read my mail the previous June, so gullible as to think that this man would bring blessing to America? And for him to liken the so-called "Christian Right" to the Nazi youth movement was just outrageous to me!
The second incident took place six months later in July of 1993. My ten-year roommate here, Jeremy Russell, a gift from God to me in an otherwise discouraging environment, is a wonderful man who grew up in what was then called Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). He was the church's Junior High youth pastor at the time and he asked me if I could help out at the annual "Rock The Nation" youth conference that year. I said I would, and it was held as always, at a small, denominational college campus in central Missouri.
But what amazed me the most about this conference was the attitude of the Metro Vineyard youth. They seemed incredibly rowdy, uncouth, unmanageable and disrespectful towards everyone all week. I was quite taken aback by this, especially since I assumed they would be more spiritual than most youth groups, coming from a church that was "on the cutting edge" of "what God is doing in the earth" in our day, yada yada yada.
The whole thing puzzled me a lot and I tried to contemplate it a bit while I was there. But it was encountering the campus coordinator on the morning we were about to leave and go home that really confounded me. I saw her at the McDonald's where we were having breakfast and went up to her to ask a question. I said, "Tell me frankly, what did you think about our group's behavior this past week?" She looked at me and said, "Do you want to know the truth?" I said, "Yes". She said, "Every year, consistently, your group is the worst of all those we host. We have inner city basketball camps here every summer which are better behaved than your kids."
I felt quite stunned by her words, and yet they dovetailed with my own gut-level impressions. They also seemed to dovetail with what I felt God had been saying to me earlier that week in calling me to, "Come apart now and spend more time with Me on a regular basis". It seemed He specifically was calling me to start spending at least one day a week, "Alone with Me in fasting and prayer."
I decided to make that day every Saturday. I'll never forget the first such Saturday after we got back. As soon as I hit my knees, God very clearly said to me, "Frankly, I'm disappointed it took you so long to see it"! This greatly depressed me, but I understood what the "it" was He was referring to. It was the sense that something was deeply wrong here at the home of the Kansas City Prophets. I could not at the time place my finger on "it". The behavior of the youth was only a symptom of "it".
You have to kind of understand where I was coming from about Metro. I had just spent eight years in Tulsa, feeling like I had been fighting the very beasts of Ephesus. I was weary and discouraged, and wrongly assumed that MVF, being a prophetic church, and recommended to me by some friends out of Keith Green's ministry in Lindale, Texas, were soul mates sharing the same burden. And maybe at its beginning they would have been. But as the prophecy given by Agustine Acala put it, from its very beginning, there would be a danger this movement would be hijacked by both a particular false prophet "there from the beginning", and by a general pressure by many to move in the wrong direction. In addition, as was said above, after the Ernie Gruen debacle, it seems a decision was made, consciously or not, to avoid certain kinds of "controversy", and join in with the "know-nothing" ecumenical spirit rather than cry out against it.
In doing so it underscores the typical pattern Metro seems to have fallen into ever since the Gruen crisis. Rather than seeing that their problem arose from false doctrines in the 1980's that were never corrected, the tendency has been to assume that pride and elitism were at fault. This, I think, made them very susceptible to the brow-beating of the ecumenicists about being "divisive".
At this point I was wondering why there seemed to be such little dwelling upon the traditional prophetic concerns here, and why were the youth so cynical? God in fact, seemed to be telling me that it wasn't the youth's fault so much as their parents! As I dug a little deeper I found out about the "Golden Seed Generation" teaching of Bob Jones in the 1980's, which put forth the idea that it was the children of the current KCF adults which were so chosen, and so destined, and so anointed for the "last great move" and the like. I concluded they must have also felt so pressured that they just rebelled against the whole thing altogether!
But all this led me to dig deeper. In the years that followed, God let me cross paths with sympathetic members and ex-members who filled me in on a lot of what had transpired during the 1980's. They told me about how the leadership always seemed to have a knack for rejecting words of correction and counsel, and for throwing out people that had been truly called by God to come here and be a part of this thing, from all over the country and beyond, throughout the years.
One brother I know personally was treated in a manner that I can only describe as vintage Metro. His name is Steve Moore, a godly intercessor and prophet. During my time there, Steve apparently had a powerful dream in which he was the church janitor. One day as he opened his janitor's locker, he saw a boy inside it, dead. He says he "just knew" by the Spirit that this boy represented Metro Vineyard. He also saw a sharp knife in there and "just knew" he should take that knife and open up the boy's head. When he did so he found a huge brain tumor! He then "just knew" he should cut out half of that tumor and that half would be left for someone else to cut out. But when he did so, he realized the boy was still alive, and that he hadn't been dead, just in a coma.
When I heard him tell me this story, it just spoke volumes to me! It was just perfect, because that was exactly my impression, that this "Kansas City Prophets" church's biggest problem was in its brain! They just would not use common sense! They seemed to pick "prophetic words" out of thin air but did not have much in the way of a prophetic mindset or consciousness of the meaning of things around them in the world. As is a trap for any of us who take God seriously, they had created a hermetically-sealed world of pseudo-spirituality, cut off from the real world where real people really lived. [vii] They seemed to keep reasoning in a highly-spiritualized language and understanding that became ingrown and took on a life of its own. They seemed to lack a sound Biblical foundation within which they could more safely prophesy and interpret their subjective impressions and experiences. And on and on.
When Steve did a tape for the church leadership about this experience, and peppered it with his observations regarding when and how alien spirits had come into their midst, the reaction of the staff was truly "vintage Metro." Like a stubborn miffed woman, they "just didn't bear witness." In fact, they told Steve all he could henceforth do was sit in his seat and say nothing about this to anyone! It wasn't but weeks until this stalwart pillar of the church, a man who could "pray people in and out of the work", someone there almost from the beginning, decided to leave and take his family elsewhere. The fact that people like John Wimber himself was succumbing to brain cancer during this time was like a living sign, in my opinion, that what Steve was saying was straight out of heaven.
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[ii] The concept of an "office" is not actually found in the New Testament, except in the case of elders and deacons. The governmental role of the apostle was limited to the time he was establishing a local church and acting as its temporary pastor. The five-fold ministries are just that--ministries (I Cor 12:5).
[iii] This reference is to Ephesians 2:20, where "the prophets" actually refer to those of the Old Testament, and the "apostles" to the Twelve (and Paul) of the New Testament. The "foundation" thus, we can safely infer, is the inspired writings of both.
[iv] This theory was developed by St. Augustine in the 5th century, and led to the "City of God" (on the earth) concept and was a big foundation for Roman Catholicism.
[v] Some Said It Thundered, by David Pytches (Nashville:Oliver-Nelson), 1991, p. 93.
[vi] It was during that session too that I felt God tell me about the upcoming elections that year that He was going to allow Bill Clinton to win. I was quite dismayed at this but He seemed to tell me, "Why should I countenance this people which cast Me out of their courts, out of their schools, into the streets?" In other words, He was going to fix America's collective wagon real good.
[vii] This was largely accomplished by so "getting into the Scriptures" as to miss the plain, simple meaning and assume it must have a "deeper", more difficult meaning. It's similar to the effect of getting simple, easy test questions, assuming they must be "trick" questions, and thus getting them wrong.
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.