To Dr. Michael Brown;
Recently I listened to the October 21, 2013 episode of your show Line of Fire, in which you interviewed Phil Johnson and then later Sam Storms and Adrian Warnock. During the second part of the episode, you and the guests praised Mike Bickle, saying, in essence, that he was a godly man and just as much a Christian as I, you, John MacArthur, or anyone else was.
As someone who lived briefly in the Kansas City area, and has spent a great deal of time studying the International House of Prayer and the teachings of Mike Bickle, I was greatly shocked to hear this. It came across as ignoring clear false teaching and cultic deception by using pro hominem arguments. My initial consideration was that you may have just been ignorant of what he really taught and needed to be informed. With that in mind, I decided to first send you an email through your website – an email which I’ll post in full here:
I recently listened to the October 21, 2013 episode of your show “Line of Fire.” At about the one hour mark, it was said that Bickle was a dear friend of the guest and that Bickle shows discernment and was godly. You yourself said that he was “one of the most Jesus-centered people I know,” and I am assuming that when you scoffed at doubting Bickle’s salvation, you were affirming that he was a true believer.
I have, in the past few years, done some serious study on the International House of Prayer and the teachings of Mike Bickle. What I have found is that not only is Bickle dishonest (whether intentionally or unintentionally) with his organization’s past, but his teachings are dangerous and are deceiving many. I have recorded the errors and false doctrine coming from Bickle and his organization on my blog and podcast, the relevant posts of which I’ll link to below:
I would encourage you to read it, not because I myself am the be all, end all source, but because I do quote Bickle in context, I play sound clips (in the podcast) in context, and examine what he teaches in detail.
Throughout the episode, you continually said that you refrain from criticism unless you’re aware of what the person teaches, or some foundation of what the errors are. I try to be the same way as well, and therefore I can respect that. However, I send this to you in an effort to edify a brother in Christ, and alert you to the dangers in Bickle and IHOP-KC that you may have been unaware of before. I understand that Bickle may, in person, come across as a nice and godly man, but I am also aware the apostle Paul warned us that Satan’s servants “disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Co 11:15). I would exhort that you cease association with IHOP-KC and Bickle, which is a cult and run by a man who is a proven false prophet and who teaches false doctrine.
After deciding I would await your answer, I then came across an open letter someone else had made, concerning your friendship with Rick Joyner. The page can be found here. Reading it, I came to the realization that I may not receive a response from you – at least not through that channel. Hence why I have decided to write a public letter here, on my own blog.
As I said before, I’ve done considerable research on Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer with all its related movements. I don’t claim to be infallible and I don’t claim to be the end-all-be-all source on the matter, but I think I’ve done far more research into them than many in well known discernment ministries (including having a face-to-face encounter with Allen Hood, Bickle’s second-in-command). While I’ve never denied Bickle might be a pleasant man to talk to in person, and I’ve never claimed he was an idiot or a dummy or any other ad hominem, I also recognize, as I said in my initial email, that Satan’s servants can disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, so that they can give the impression of being sheep when, in fact, they are wolves. Many Roman Catholics lament that Johann Tetzel, the great peddler of indulgences, was actually a respectable man poorly handled by Protestant historians – even if this were the case, and Tetzel was actually a religious man with few personal faults, this does not do away with the doctrinal error he was committing, and it does not deny Martin Luther’s right in stepping up against him and his errors.
As such, I cannot truly believe Mike Bickle is a brother in Christ or someone whose errors can simply be shrugged off. In my original email, I linked you to all my posts going into detail on the matter. We’re talking about a man who claims God spoke to him in Cairo, Egypt, and told him to start a movement to bring Jesus back. We’re talking about a man who claims God gave him an acronym for his public ministry…an acronym which had been trademarked by a major restaurant chain since the 1970’s. We’re talking about a man who teaches that God the Son waited on subtle impressions from God the Father just like we do, and in essence lived like a man in the prophetic ministry does today, with no drawing from His divinity. We’re talking about a man who believes God requires us to pray for something in order for Him to do it, and that the power of God’s releasing is matched only by the power and size of our praying (by the way, Dr. Brown – that’s why you always see Mike Bickle praying). We’re talking about a man who reinterprets the Bible and the meaning of its verses to fit his private revelations, and clearly does not uphold the doctrine of sola scriptura. We’re talking about a man who reinterprets sections of scripture – especially end-times scripture – to redefine what is being talked about as his personal end-times movement rather than the universal church or body of saints. We’re talking about a man who has not only been proven a false prophet time and time again, but has actually been documented changing details in his past history concerning these prophecies, so that they either do not appear false or they don’t sound false at all. Again, I’ve recorded and discussed all this in my blog posts and podcasts, which I linked to in the aforementioned email, so that if anyone thinks I am taking Mike Bickle out of context or am misrepresenting him and his ideas, they are welcome to review and listen to the evidence for themselves.
Now you might respond, as you did to brother Justin, that you are too busy to go through blog posts, listen to podcasts, watch videos, etc. In some ways, I fully understand: I’m married, I have a full time job, I’m active in my local church, I do personal studies, I prepare for a podcast every week, and I try to keep this blog updated as much as possible. I know that when you get a particularly busy week, you have to prioritize. However, I cannot understand then why you would, on your October 21 episode, tell Phil Johnson – who is second-in-command to John MacArthur at Grace to You – to listen to hours of audio of good Charismatic teaching, when you yourself will not find time set aside to watch a seven-minute video on Rick Joyner’s false teaching. To many, this comes across not only as hypocrisy, but a sign that you sincerely want to stay ignorant of what your supposed friends and brothers in Christ teach. It comes across as you saying, “I’m ignorant of what those men say, therefore I can’t criticize them,” and then when people try to educate you, you close your eyes, cover your ears, and say, “I’m not listening! I don’t want to hear what I can criticize them with!”
This leads into a great dilemma regarding your defense of them, stemming from how whenever Phil Johnson would ask you to name names, you would argue that you weren’t sure whether or not they taught certain things, and hence you wanted to be gracious and withhold criticism until you knew better. However, Phil Johnson then brought up a great contention: yet you support them. You support men like Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, Rick Joyner, and countless other false teachers, exposing those who listen to or admire you and your ministry to these ravenous wolves. If you hear someone say, “Hey, so-and-so teaches false doctrine,” your response should not be to hide behind the concept of Christian grace and your own personal ignorance on the matter…your response should be to see if that accusation is true, so that you can better protect those who serve under you or turn to you for edification. As such, the way you respond to those who try to educate you on an individual’s false teaching demonstrates someone who really isn’t too concerned with the serious false teaching of those he associates with. This might sound cruel, and this might sound unkind – but given the circumstances, this is what is being seen.
Quite honestly, how can one who continually beats the drum that he is a supporter of sola scriptura (especially in regards to Continuationism) support such men? You support Lou Engle, and yet I have rarely (if ever!) heard Lou Engle use a verse in context…in fact, he almost always reinterprets passages of scripture based on personal dreams and revelations he’s had. Mike Bickle has likewise interpreted verses and passages of scripture based on dreams, revelations and prophecies given either by him or others. For example, he used Haggai 1:2 to claim that God wanted to build IHOP-KC…could you therefore, Dr. Brown, as an upholder of sola scriptura, look at Haggai 1:2 and demonstrate to me – from the context of the verses – that it refers to the God-ordained building of IHOP-KC? Could you please demonstrate to me, Dr. Brown (without quoting from Mike Bickle’s own words, or the teachings of his followers, or any other material out of IHOP-KC), where in scripture it is taught that a “forerunner movement” will appear before the end times? I realize the men you know may claim to you that they hold scripture to the highest degree, and their organizations may claim that scripture is above prophecy and personal revelation…but when you look at the application of scripture, you will plainly see that this is a bold-faced lie. Mike Bickle and his ilk do not hold scripture to the highest degree: scripture is only used secondarily to what their personal revelations, dreams, and prophecies teach.
Your love for these men seems to be founded on nothing else but a love for evangelism (this would likewise explain your love for the heretic Charles Finney). No doubt you will want us to overlook all theological differences because these men reach people for Christ. The problem is that when you replace this movement with any other historical heresy, this position falls apart. For example, the Arians saw a resurgence among the barbarian tribes, to whom they fled after the Second Ecumenical Council and their banishment from the Roman Empire: should we jump for joy that the barbarian tribes “found Christ,” even if through unorthodox circles? Should we shrug off the divisive, overzealous nature of Athanasius and other Church Fathers who opposed the Arians? Remember, the contention against the Arians was never really their view of the Gospel, merely their view of the Trinity…should we therefore, by the standard you use for those in Hyper-Charismatic camps, simply shrug off the errors taught by the Arians? Should we bombast Athanasius, Hilary of Poiters, Ambrose of Milan, Basil the Great, Gregory Nazianzen and countless others who spent their lives (sometimes up to their dying breath) fighting and attacking the Arians and their related heresies?
I would heartily contest that anyone is really being “won” by these movements. I’ve spoken to those who became involved at IHOP-KC, and I’ve listened to testimonies of those who become involved in the movement. They may say the name Jesus, but their heart is directed towards other things: towards end-time prophecies, towards the teachings of Bickle, and towards the warped theology of IHOP-KC that is almost a religion separate from Christianity the way Mormonism is. While I don’t doubt some have been genuinely saved by this movement, and I have no doubt (as your friend James White often says) that “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick,” that doesn’t justify the wickedness in this movement. We should not be swayed by large crowds or big numbers of people who claimed to have been saved or felt edified – such argument from accomplishment is not only unsound, but unbiblical.
All this inconsistency leads to my last point: namely, why people really don’t believe you when you say you show discernment or you do criticize errors in the movement. On the October 21 show, when Phil Johnson criticized you of looking at the movement with rose-colored glasses, you assured him that you did criticize the errors of the movement; when pressed to name names, you waffled, and then half an hour later began to praise some of the people who commit these great errors!
Do you know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of how many Muslims respond to the issue of terrorism. Many Muslims will readily declare to non-Muslims, “Oh yes, I believe terrorism is bad!” However, when they are pressed to name names, or answer a question as simple as, “Is Hamas a terrorist group?”, they waffle. They won’t give a straight answer. They give cop outs such as “I don’t know enough to comment on if they are or not.” Or, depending on the individual Muslim, if they are asked something as simple as, “Were the September 11 attacks bad?”, they’ll give a weak answer like, “Well, I mean, terrorism is bad…but America deserved it so Al Qaeda was in the right!” They’ll gladly respond to broad questions; they won’t respond to specific questions that require them to be consistent with their position.
This is what those on the opposite side see coming from you. You assure us, “I’m discerning! I think the errors among Charismatic groups are bad!” But then you get pressed to be consistent. You’re asked if certain people are bad. You’re asked if certain groups are bad. You respond by giving what are, really, just non-answers. Then you turn around and you praise the groups that are committing those great errors you claim you’re discerning! How can we assume you’re showing discernment when you praise Mike Bickle, who is the leader of a cult? How can we assume you’re knowledgeable of the errors when you refuse to interact with the facts? How can we believe that you uphold sola scriptura as an important doctrine when you call men who clearly don’t uphold the doctrine to be brothers in Christ?
You may have noticed that in this open letter, I use the term “Hyper-Charismatic.” I’m not a Charismatic myself, but I know there are Charismatics who, unlike you, are not afraid to on the one hand say the extremes in the movement are bad and then on the other hand call out the names of those committing the errors. I’ve listened to Charismatic pastors criticize Benny Hinn and call out other TBN personalities, and I’ve known of Charismatic churches where the elders removed Kansas City Prophets from their pulpits because they recognized their dangerous doctrines. I realize these men may seem to some to be few and far between, but they exist, I consider them brothers in Christ despite our differences, and out of respect I differentiate between them and the more extreme groups. I would never, for example, put an Assembly of God army chaplain I know in the same grouping as Mike Bickle, because the two men might as well belong to two different religions. Those who are able to be consistent should be respected. What cannot be respected is someone who tries to ride both sides of the fence, and cannot be honest with himself.
If this open letter comes across as cruel or mean, I did not intend it to sound as such. I did intend it to be blunt, and say things that need to be said. If I seem somewhat passionate on the subject, it is because, as I wrote earlier, I’ve seen what Bickle and IHOP-KC have done to others. I’ve listened to what Bickle teaches from his pulpit. I’ve read the man’s works, heard his sermons, and studied his end-times beliefs. While not everything he says is wrong, enough that he says is dangerous and erroneous to warrant me to think he should be avoided. His organization is essentially a cult centered around his personality and his teachings. I would never praise Bickle publicly, let alone praise his ministry or his work – not any more than I would the ministry of Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, Joyce Meyer, or any other false teacher. To hear you praise Bickle on your show and defend him against critics with pro hominem fallacies – throwing out all the false teaching – shocked me, and prompted me to write both the email through your website and this open letter.
Dr. Brown, the men you associate with are dangerous. When you associate with them, you tell others that you, at most, approve of what they say, do and preach; or, at the very least, that you do not find it to be dangerous or worthy of caution. If you truly are ignorant of what they teach, then I encourage you to cease hiding behind a false concept of graciousness, and you stop telling your critics that you’re just ignorant of what they say, and you put some time into researching it. You say that you’re too busy? Set time aside to do it. I put time aside in my schedule to listen to an hour-and-a-half podcast to make sure that it was true that you had praised Bickle and IHOP-KC, to make certain I heard it straight from you…I think you can spare seven minutes to watch a video about Rick Joyner’s false teachings, or spend thirty minutes to a full hour to read some material on what Bickle truly believes. Even if you are seriously busy 24/7, you should present to your critics and your opponents that you care about the subject enough to at least familiarize yourself with the faults and questionable doctrines of those you promote and support.
If you truly believe that you are discerning, and you truly believe that scripture is the highest authority man should live by, then I exhort you to seriously research what Bickle and others believe, come to a realization that they are false prophets and false teachers who devour of the flock, and cease your promotion and support of them. Otherwise, you will leading more and more of your followers and listeners into spiritual darkness.