In September, I wrote a post expressing concern that Francis Chan would be speaking at the IHOP “OneThing” conference at the end of December.
Chan spoke on Monday, and I was pleased that his message–which included praise for the “great things” going on at IHOP–also included some loving corrections to New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) teachings. Watch his message here.
“There are some theological differences…”
Chan started his message by admitting that, when he received the invitation to speak at the conference, he did not know much about IHOP and had never met IHOP founder, Mike Bickle. He also said he was advised by people not to “hang out” with Bickle and that some of those people had described Bickle as “creepy.” But, after getting to know Bickle, Chan told his audience, “I love that guy,” and “I love His heart” and “I just want to publicly say I love Mike Bickle.”
That being said, Chan acknowledged theological differences between himself and Bickle, saying, “I’m sure there are some theological differences in there somewhere. But there’s so much that we agree upon.” He said that, despite the differences, unity among believers is important to God and that “division” and “dissension” in the church are “deeds of the flesh.” He went on list core doctrines of the Christian faith that he believed he and his IHOP audience hold in common.
I thought it was wise of Chan to mention that there are some theological differences between himself and the IHOP community. By doing this, he did not appear to give a blanket endorsement to all IHOP teachings–which was my major concern.
I also thought it was good Chan emphasized unity. He is correct in pointing out that the unity of believers is very important to Christ and that such unity will serve as a positive witness of Christ in the world (John 17:20-23). And he also showed that the basis of that unity is a shared commitment to essential Christian doctrines.
My one concern is that, with all his talk about unity and shared beliefs, Chan’s audience might dismiss the theological differences he alluded to as unimportant or inconsequential. I don’t think that was necessarily Chan’s intention. But I hope that his listeners will dig deeper to investigate those theological differences.
“People are going to lie to you.”
Chan told his audience he felt led by the Lord teach from a specific passage of Scripture, 2 Timothy 4:1-5. In this passage, the apostle Paul warns about people, in the last days, not wanting to hear sound doctrine. Instead, these people will seek out false teachers whose teachings will cater to their evil desires.
Chan also shared examples from Scripture where God’s people listened to false prophets, such as 1 Kings 13 and 1 Kings 22:6-28. And he told his audience that Scripture warns believers to “tests the spirits” (1 John 4:1) and test prophecies (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21).
He went on to urge his audience to study Scripture so they will be able to detect erroneous teachings.
I was pleased that Chan issued a strong warning about false teachers and false prophets. This is an important warning for the IHOP crowd to heed because IHOP heavily promotes present-day prophets and the present-day gift of prophecy. And it seems to me that, many times, the people who promote prophets and prophecy the most do the least to warn their followers about the dangers of false prophets and false prophecies.
I was also pleased at how heavily Chan stressed the importance of reading, and studying, the whole Bible so believers know it well. But I do wish he had also stressed the need for them to study Scripture using the correct principles of biblical interpretation, based on the science of “biblical hermeneutics.” My observation is that many people in the NAR movement think they know Scripture well, but they haven’t learned how to properly interpret it. So they are in danger of being misled by false teachers who twist Scripture.
“Be Lovers of Jesus, not just lovers of revival.”
Chan shared a time in his life when he realized he was guilty of worshiping a desire for revival rather than worshiping Jesus. He urged his audience not to make the same mistake. Chan also stated that God doesn’t always promise revival and pointed to passages of Scripture that show God’s messengers were often rejected and revival didn’t always occur.
Chan’s warning about not worshiping revival seems fitting since many IHOP teachings and practices are aimed at bringing about a great end-time revival before Christ’s return.
Chan also urged those who are part of the “prayer movement” to not start prayer movements with the intention of having thousands of people worshiping non-stop, around-the-clock in their city. Instead of getting excited about raising up prayer movements, they should be excited about worshiping Jesus.
I think Chan may not understand the dominionist teachings that lie behind Bickle’s promotion of prayer rooms in cities throughout the world. If he did, then he might have had more corrections to say about the “prayer movement.” Then, again, many people are unaware of these teachings.
In short, Bickle teaches that, through the IHOP prayer movement, God is preparing prayer warriors for their end-time role of releasing judgment against Christ’s enemies by saying “prophetic” prayers. (See Bickle’s “Overview of the Book of Revelation“). But this notion, of believers “releasing” God’s judgments, cannot be found in the Book of Revelation. Indeed, Bickle has developed his own unique interpretation of the Book of Revelation as described in an article titled “Forerunner Eschatology.”
But people should be cautious about a novel interpretation of any book of the Bible.
”God didn’t give us the Holy Spirit just to do tricks.”
Chan said God didn’t give believers the Holy Spirit just so they could “do tricks.” He said the gifts of the Spirit are for the common good, and that the Holy Spirit enables people to be His witnesses.
I appreciate how Chan reminded his listeners that the gifts of the Spirit are not meant for showmanship, but rather for building up the body of Christ. I also appreciate his focus on the Holy Spirit’s empowerment being for the purpose of witnessing to Christ. These are good reminders because people who focus heavily on the gifts of the Spirit, such as members of the IHOP community, can develop a misplaced focus on miracles.
“Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”
Chan concluded his talk by cautioning members of the IHOP community that some of them may be in danger of being like the Church in Sardis described in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 3:1-6). That is to say, they may have a reputation for being spiritually alive, but actually are spiritually dead. He said people who are part of a community like IHOP, which is known for its passion and prayer, are especially vulnerable to trying maintain their spiritual reputation even when, secretly, they know they have lost some of their love for Jesus.
Chan said he had been guilty of that very thing at times in his ministry–being a well-known Christian teacher, but not loving God as much as he did in the past.
My thought is that being like the Church in Sardis–just going through the motions spiritually–is a danger many Christians face. So all Christians, not just those affiliated with IHOP or the NAR movement, need to be on guard against this temptation.
If you watched the OneThing conference, then I’d love to hear your (graciously expressed) thoughts.
– By Holly Pivec