On October 12 I’d posted an essay examining the difference between people today who claim to have visions accompanied by seizures or other physical manifestations, and people in the Bible who had visions, none of which evidenced the same kind of violent thrashing we see in today’s false visionaries. In fact, I’d included several Bible verses to show that these kind of visions produced the exact physical experiences that demon-possessed people had.
Subsequently, I had a request to look at the movements of the New Apostolic Reformation and IHOP/Mike Bickle, and their impact on Millennial Christians.
Millennials are a younger set of Christians who are a generation raised totally in the environment that the aforementioned movements produced. To these kids, visions and manifestations are normal and expected, accepted even in conservative corners of the evangelical faith. Many College and University campuses have IHOP-like prayer rooms, ‘soaking rooms’ and promote youth-aimed conferences such as OneThing and Passion where the youths commonly display these manifestations and believe they had a genuine spiritual experience. Sadly, the leaders there confirm it.
I apologize for the length. I did not want to split the essay into two or three parts. I broke up the text with large subject headings and photos.
Above, Bethel Healing room
One leader of this movement is Mike Bickle of IHOP– International House of Prayer. He also lead a megachurch in Kansas City and oversees a Bible College. Bickle says he receives visions all the time and also has been to heaven twice.
I’ve had time when the Lord has come upon me when I laughed and could not stop…where I’ve had times I was thrashing around and shaking violently, I’ve had times where I’ve felt tremendous heat…”
None of these physical manifestations are biblical, as we saw in my previous essay. The hallmark of the Holy Spirit or angels who visited people in the Bible was never violent and the hallmark of those who received a vision was self-control and awareness.
Many millennials are under the impression that not only should they be experiencing direct encounters with God, Jesus, and angels, but they should be manifesting some kind of physical proof of the encounter either during or after. The proofs usually come in the form of ‘liver shivers’, babbling in ‘tongues’, thrashing or seizures, uncontrollable laughing or jerking, and the like.
Moreover, these millennials believe that when they do have a personal, physical encounter with the divine, no one can or should judge it. The fact that the experience happened is proof enough that it is genuine. Unfortunately, the visions and experiences and encounters then become their truth. Which again, cannot be judged because it’s personal.
This blog essay will explain why their attitude is wrong on both counts. Physical and personal encounters with the Divine in the forms commonly believed to be normal today are not expected and not normal. Secondly, we are absolutely to examine, test, or even judge all things, and especially experiences if they do occur.
The NAR or New Apostolic Reformation AKA Dominionist Movement is not new, but the modern version can be traced to Mike Bickle’s Kansas City Fellowship and really got moving in the 1990s after they joined with the Association of Vineyard Churches led by John Wimber in 1990. The movement is defined expertly by Amy Spreeman and Marsha West at Berean Research,
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a dominionist movement which asserts that God is restoring the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of Prophet and Apostle.
Leading figures in this seemingly loosely organized movement claim that these prophets and apostles alone have the power and authority to execute God’s plans and purposes on earth. They believe they are laying the foundation for a global church, governed by them.
They place a greater emphasis on dreams, visions and extra-biblical revelation than they do on the Bible, claiming that their revealed teachings and reported experiences (e.g. trips to heaven, face-to-face conversations with Jesus, visits by angels) can not be proven by the ‘old’ Scripture. (Source)
At the source link you will find Fast Facts in bullet point form, common traits among the different branches, and a list of leaders. Some of these leaders of this dangerous but permeating movement are Bethel Church/Bill Johnson, IHOP/Mike Bickle, and Hillsong/Brian and Bobbie Houston. The deception of this dangerous movement includes the music that stems from it. I recommend further exploration at the source link above, which leads to a wealth of information and also testimonies of once-deceived adherents of the movement who have gracefully been delivered from its deception.
Even NAR leader Bickle of IHOP admits most of the manifestations are fake. Here he is quoted from a video:
I’ve seen people thrown against walls, and thrashed around and thrown across rooms. I’ve seen a lot of fake and I’ve seen a lot of real. The real is worth it. Most of it’s fake. Most places that I’ve been, the majority of the manifestations are not caused by the Holy Spirit. I will allow the fake because I so believe in the genuine.
Bickle continues by saying that due to his longevity within the movement he can discern the difference between the huge quantity of the fake and the few real experiences. Notwithstanding his power to “allow” or disallow various fake spirits to manifest within his flock. I have no comment on that, ahem.
Vulnerable Youths & Discernment
A participant at OneThing IHOP 2010 wrote,
In another tweet, I said something along the lines of having given more high-fives in one night than in my entire life. Everyone was so crazy happy, dancing, and celebrating. This is why people drink, to be this “happy” to be alive, to feel like they belong somewhere– where you know everyone there is experiencing that same party. Haha, maybe they gassed the room or something, but it was unbelievable. source
Why does the NAR/IHOP/Signs & Wonders movement attract so many youths? Simply, they are usually new to the faith, less knowledgeable and more vulnerable. Like the young man above, they want to feel like they belong, want to feel happy, want … something. Those in college are away from the oversight of their parents for the first time. They’re testing boundaries. These kids are extra vulnerable.
Young Timothy the pastor was guided by Paul and told to set an example in speech and conduct and faith and purity. (1 Timothy 4:12). I don’t believe that thrashing around on a floor or uncontrollable laughter or barking would meet the standard of conduct advised here. Isaiah wrote that “even youths grow weary and tired and young men stumble and fall” (Isaiah 40:30) but the advice was “they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31).
David asked “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9)
Herein lay the issue. The Bible says to test all things. All. These things are tested against the Word. Then guarded.
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
This verse is a favorite among the Charismatic people who enjoy speaking or hearing ecstatic utterances claiming divine inspiration or revelation. However, the word prophecies does not now mean spoken revelation from God. That did occur in the early church before the canon was closed, to be sure. (Acts 11:27-28, 1 Timothy 1:18, 1 Timothy 4:14.) It refers today to the written word of God. The call for careful discernment in verse 21 is a response to the command in verse 20. Examine the preached word carefully and test it against what is written. What aligns with the word is to be accepted, what departs from the word is to be shunned as evil.
Everyone seemed to feel God’s love all the time and have crazy experiences, dreams, visions, prophesies. I was dissatisfied with just Bible study. I wanted more, and was constantly seeking more prophecies and visions and signs. NAR adherent’s testimony
Such a heavy emphasis on personal experiences makes one thirst for more of them, and eventually the word itself is shunned as evil and the prophetic utterances and signs are accepted as truth. They are much more exciting when experienced in a room full of excited youths dancing and yelling and enjoying loud music and strobe lights. Compared to a quiet closet with a Bible, notebook, and pen, the former draws the vulnerable much more than does the latter. Yet even the most liberally deceived person must accept that if they have an experience, vision, dream, or revelation, the Bible says to test it against the word.
Orderly Worship – What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. … For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:26, 33)
Why do they hate the word of God?
Yes, they hate it. Even millennials who are not involved in the more dramatic or charismatic segments of this movement will eventually learn to despise the word and love the experience. See this testimony from Lizzy, a former NAR/IHOP participant:
We were witnessing all kinds of signs and wonders, and assumed they had to be of God. Never once did we recall or were reminded that the Bible talks of FALSE signs and wonders, and even though they would emphasize to the crowd to not fixate on the sign but on the Lord, it was the manifestations that got all the attention and the glory.
Saddleback pastor Rick Warren wrote in 1998 that, “We’re just a church that tries to look for [spiritual] waves, and we ride them. And then we try to do it with balance.” You know waves. There’s a crest. And there’s a trough. Disappointment comes in the trough, and the seeker of experiences looks more and more desperately for the crests. You’re always looking for a crest and not the steady growth of the word of God. Spiritual adrenaline can be deadly. Yet if one trusts in God and His word, there is never disappointment, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8).
It comes down to an issue of authority. The self wants itself to be the authority, and not the word of God, which is objective and infallible. Satan tempted Eve in the garden with this, that the self can be the authority and not the one and only command she had been given. (Genesis 3:4-6).
Inevitably, those who rely on experiences are refusing authority or oversight via public testing and submission to the word. Yet the best thing one can do is rely on the word only.
Getting into the Word of God was the best thing we could do, and the Lord through Scripture showed us some of the error that we needed to be re-taught. We were all still in a lot of error. … We began to realize that so much of what we had thought was God at one time…wasn’t. The Holy Spirit wouldn’t contradict Himself when the Bible stated that two of His fruits were gentleness and SELF-CONTROL. Lizzy’s NAR Testimony
Let’s say that a person experiences a manifestation of one kind or another. Let’s say they decide to allow testing of that event. They go to the word. Their experience aligns with the word. In that case, they did not need the experience, because they had a more sure word. (2 Peter 1:19). If it doesn’t align with the word, they didn’t need the experience, because it was false.
If a person refuses to allow testing of their experience they are in violation of scripture, since–
–the gifts are for the edification of the church and not personal hoarding (1 Corinthians 14:12, Ephesians 4:12)
–we are to submit to the leaders (Hebrews 13:17).
What are we to experience?
We do not need to go into a soaking room, nor need to collect with others who spout prophecies, dance crazily, or await a liver shiver. Doing so only brings disappointment anyway. Please note that adding to the disappointment, is that Bickle persistently advises that those who “have” should not look down on those who “have not.” By this advice, he admits that seeking signs and experiences leads to a two-tiered hierarchy.
Here is another testimony, this one from Sola Sisters from a Passion Conference which speaks to this:
At the Passion 2012 conference, Beth Moore, John Piper, Louie Giglio and company taught/led an entire sports arena (45,000 college aged students) in (attempting to ‘hear’ God’s voice). My son’s friends in attendance of this conference told of a young girl standing outside the arena crying her eyes out because she had not heard the audible voice of God as they had instructed. Others tried to comfort her but were also distraught at not hearing a thing.
Here is what life in Christ promises. We do not need to invite the Holy Spirit or seek Him, He is IN US. He is already “shown up.” He is present within each and every believer. Can one seek or want any closer experience than that? We are gifted with the Person of God dwelling in us for the duration of our earthly life! Why do they want more?
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16). This page gives fifteen more verses stating that the Spirit is in us. We experience Him every moment of every day!
Yet the promises continue. He gives us common grace. When we breathe air, see a sunset, open our umbrella against the rain, we experience God’s common grace.
We experience His providence. When we avoid a car crash or when we are in a car crash, get cancer, are cured of cancer, have a baby or miscarry, we experience God because in His sovereignty He brings all things to pass for His glory and good for those who love him.
We experience God when we pray, for we are in communion with Him. When we repent, we experience Him, for He is pleased. When we bring water to those who thirst or visit the poor, we experience Him because His pleasure is in us when we do those things.
The difference between those who seek tangible experiences or freshly and constantly manifested feelings, and mature believers is that we base our experience on faith and trust, and not things that are tangible or visible.
An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. So he left them and departed. (Matthew 16:4).
Why do I rain on your parade?
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2).
It is the word of God that transforms via the mind, not experiences felt physically.
I live near Athens GA. Many of the youths who attend our church also attend University of Georgia. There are many institutes of higher learning in Athens alone, UGA has 35,000 enrolled. That is a lot of vulnerable youths and many are being drawn into these supernatural events and taught that such manifestations are normal. My heart breaks over this as much as if you saw a toddler walking into a busy street. We need to alert, teach, love, and protect our youths.
Just as you can’t perceive growth in height, from day to day or month to month, you can’t often perceive your own spiritual growth. If you are in the word, you’re growing! This is a certainty. You do not need to seek experiences to confirm it.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. (2 Peter 3:18).
We do not grow from experiences that we had from inside us. We grow from external truth that only comes from God and His word.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)
We all need more Bible engagement and less experience experiencing and less seeking manifestations.
Do not be drawn in. Stay in the word of God
Avoid these people and their works. List from Berean Research (except Chan, I added him, see picture below for why.) At the Berean Research link each of the names has its own link so the reader can learn ore about why they are to be avoided.
Francis Chan has partnered with Mike Bickle at Bickle’s IHOP OneThing Youth Conference for the last several years. Chan considers Bickle a brother. Also avoid people who regularly partner with Bickle or Bethel Redding.
C. Peter Wagner
Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer –IHOP)
Bill Johnson (Bethel Church, Redding CA)
Brian & Bobbie Houston (Hillsong Church)
Steve Shultz (The Elijah List)
John Kelly, Bill Haman, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, James Goll, John Eckhardt, Jim Laffoon, Jack Deere, Johnny Enlow, Barbara Yoder, Charles Kraft, Bob Beckett, Che Ahn, Naomi Dowdy, Mary Crum, Jack Hayford, John Arnott, Stacy Campbell, Patricia King, Phil Pringle, Yonggi Cho, Beni Johnson, Jen Johnson, Kris Vallotton, Carl Lentz, David Barton, Steven Strang, Robert Stern, Stephen Strader, George Otis, Ed Silvoso, Janet Porter, George Barna, Mary Glazier, Thomas Muthee, Tom Hess, Samuel Rodriguez, Eddie Smith, Lance Wallnau, Loren Cunningham, Bob Beckett, Os Hillman, Jacqueline del Rosario, Jill Griffith, Francis Oda, Graham Power, Francis Frangipagne, Wendy Alec, Amanda Wells, Katherine Ruonala, Lana Vawser, Kong Hee & Sun Ho, Theo Wolmarans, Jennifer LeClaire and many others.
Keywords you will hear when encountering Dominionist/NAR people:
under the power of the Spirit
fresh move of the Spirit
story (as in, personal experience is the story rather than sure, absolute propositional truth in the Bible)
kingdom (lots of focus on the kingdom, not kingdom as properly referenced in scripture)
The Dominionist/NAR influence is pervasive. Here are just a few examples of how their influence has spread. These events are regular and ongoing, in and around Athens, where many youths will be drawn in.
Pray for your youth. Youth, if you are involved in one of these “ministries” and have been taught that your experiences and manifestations and signs are normal, please pray to Jesus for wisdom and for Him to open your eyes.