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Meeting the Kansas City Prophets

By J. E. Choate

religion, articles, christianity

Who are the Kansas City Prophets, and what is their connection with the church of Christ? The Kansas City Prophets are a group of evangelistic preachers who claim to have the miraculous power of prophecy. They eschew the title "prophet," and prefer to be called "prophetically gifted ministers." The Kansas City Fellowship was established by Mike Bickle in 1984. Bickle does not claim to be a prophet, but says God has spoken personally to him delivering apocalyptic revelations.

The strange connections between the KCP and the church of Christ is established through Gary Holloway, Michael Weed, Rubel Shelly, and Randy Harris. These brethren are indirectly tied in with the Kansas City Prophets through personal contacts and their articles addressing Bickle, Wagner, and Wimber. The common denominator is the Pentecostal "Third Wave" theology.

The KCP have been creating quite a stir inside charismatic circles in recent years. They claim that prophetic gifts of prophecy can be restored to the churches, and that prophecy is a natural biblical means for God to speak to his people in these "last days."

John Wimber tells how he came in contact with the KCP in 1988 through Paul Cain. Paul Cain is said to be a "ten" on the prophetic scale of ten. His peers say Cain is never wrong in his prophetic utterances. Wimber said Cain stirred him to new levels of concern for holiness and the prophetic ministry which he had not taken seriously.

The Story of Paul Cain

His story is like a lost apocryphal book from the Bible filled with miracles, visions, angels, and God's pervasive presence! We pause to insert the word "weird" without which the story of the Kansas City Prophets would lose much of its apocalyptic and eschatological mysticism.

The legend of Paul Cain begins with a miraculous birth. He claims his mother was pregnant in her mid forties and terminally ill with tuberculosis and cancer. Cain tells that she purportedly was visited by an angel who promised that she would be healed and give birth to a son who would be called Paul. The sign would be that she would live to a very old age. She died at a 104.

Paul Cain tells his first visit came from the Lord when he was eight. He was told he would have a great ministry if he kept himself pure. He also tells the story that he was engaged to be married to a young woman. He said that the Lord appeared to him on the passenger side of his Cadillac saying he was jealous of Cain's companion. He called upon him to give her up and lead a life of celibacy.

Cain's prophecies are unusual to say the least. He says that "Signs and Wonders" will increase when the united churches, Protestants and Catholics, will do even greater works than Jesus did. He tells of seeing a parade of children marching into a hospital and healing whole wards of sick people. Cain saw religious broadcasts when a billion would be saved at one time. The dead will be raised. limbs restored, and the lame will leap from their wheel chairs.

In 1990, the Kansas City Fellowship joined the Vineyard Christian Fellowship by invitation of John Wimber. Wimber no doubt saw in the KCP a Pentecostal revival of the miracle of prophecy which fitted right into Wimber's "Signs and Wonders" third wave scheme of things. [See C. Peter Wagner's The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit in which he sets up the Pentecostal rage of this century, Firm Foundation, Mar. 1997, 14]

The "Third Wave" is identified in particular with the "Signs and Wonders" (miracles) of John Wimber's Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Wimber claims that the age of miracles has not ceased, and are being performed today. The blind see, demons are exorcised, and the dead climb out of their coffins.

John Wimber and Jack Deere, former professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary and presently the "scholar in residence" with the "Vineyards," admit the whole thing is weird. As a matter of fact, some of the harshest critics of The KCP come from the ranks of the Pentecostal spokesmen who perceive the weirdness of it all.

Ernie Gruen, pastor of the Full Faith Church of Love is one. Gruen accuses the KCP of false prophecy and misconduct common to the practices of the charismatic charlatans who know how to manipulate an audience and to create a state of mind termed in Pentecostal circles as "slain by the Spirit."

Gruen is fed up with the false predictions, mysticism, and erroneous teachings of the KCP! A popular criticism of the KCP is the promotion of predictions after they have come true. The critics say Cain would have to go back to the 1950s to cite documentation to give any credibility to the preposterous claims that Cain makes about his birth and childhood. The Pentecostal critics of Cain, Wimber, et al, say they use every trick found in the bag of the charismatic shaman.

Hot on the Trail for the Kansas City Prophets

The claim of the KCP is that the gift of prophecy, a power which some had during the apostolic period, should be restored to the church. This explains why and how the KCP fit into Wagner's "Third Wave," and with Wimber's "Signs and Wonders' movement.

The KCP has two distinct sides: The first addresses the present prophetic utterances with claims that they are being fulfilled today. The second side is that this unprecedented third wave advent of the of the Holy Spirit is the apocalyptic clan that the Second Coming of Christ will be at any moment in this generation even today [Shades of the 19th century "Millerites"].

And another question is raised that once the Kansas City Prophets are identified, why should conservative churches of Christ be interested? There are indeed critical reasons why the churches should be deeply concerned.

We first meet the Kansas City Prophets and their founder, Mike Bickle, April 1996 in Florence, Alabama. The occasion was the Mid­South 1996 Conference on Spiritual Renewal. The conference theme was "Preparing the Bride." Mike Bickle was a key note speaker, and so was Rubel Shelly.

Bickle and Shelly were billed as International Christian Statesmen ministering to the worldwide body of Christ in these words: "These men are God's appointed men for this conference, coming with a fresh word from the Father." Are we to assume that Ruble Shelly thinks that he is now speaking ex cathedra (from God's very throne)? The language explicitly says so!

The leaders in the churches of Christ in the Florence, Ala., area, which I like to refer to as "Tolbert Fanning country," and as the first cradle of the Restoration Movement with reference to churches of Christ, must awaken to the fact that the "change agents" have your churches especially targeted because the churches are numerous and influential. The idea is to set up a domino strategy in Middle Tennessee and North Alabama and then pick up the pieces.

To learn more about the tactics of these barracudas of change, read Lynn Anderson's book Navigating the Winds of Change. Such pious brethren do not establish churches preferring to take the churches over "ready made" which includes gullible memberships and the real Property earned by others. And, moreover, these brethren would not consider the "take overs" to be "the work of Satan."

Shelly's Connections with the KCP Is Circumstantial

That Dr. Shelly was a principal speaker for the 1996 Conference does not mean that the Woodmont Family of God will be joining the Kansas City Fellowship. As a matter of fact, he never mentions the KCP, nor do any of the "Holy Ghost" practitioners in churches of Christ. The ubiquitous presence of Rubel Shelly is sighted in wide and disparate settings from Florence to Calgary embracing contradictory theological ideas.

A second connection with the KCP comes through Randy Harris, a DLU professor. He makes a special reference to Jack Deere in a recent issue of Wineskins with obvious approval.

The third connection of the church of Christ with the KCP comes by way of John Wimber's Vineyard and the "Third Wave." Gary Holloway and Michael Weed read a paper May 1995 before the Disciple of Christ Historical Society in Nashville in which they suggest three paradigmatic models for the Church of Christ. Of one they write: "The other model influencing Churches of Christ is third wave charismatic worship described by church growth expert C. Peter Wagner and others." Need we say more?

Summary Conclusion

As a church historian, a major intent of this article is to provide a simple understanding of these weird new paradigms which are being introduced surreptitiously into unsuspecting churches of Christ. The documentations are indisputable. Does it ever occur to the liberal element that they have kept the conservative churches of Christ under harsh attack for thirty­five years with little opposition? "A worm squirms in hot ashes." Let the facts speak for themselves. Enough is enough!

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Published July 1997