Charismatic prophets at war

In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote extensively about the so-called Independent Network Charismatics (INC). According to scholars Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, INC is the fastest-growing Christian movement in both the Western world and global south. INC Christians are outside the network of traditional Pentecostals. Unlike the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland), International Pentecostal Holiness Church, International Pentecostal Church of Christ, Foursquare Church, and the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, INC Christianity is not a denomination. Nor are its networks affiliated in any way with the National Association of Evangelicals.

INC Christianity is a network of authoritative spiritual leaders with very large followings. They are closely related to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). If I understand these movements correctly, INC Christianity it more open to the prosperity gospel than NAR Christianity, but there is a lot of overlap. Both groups believe in the traditional Pentecostal “gifts” (speaking in tongues, healing, miracles, and prophecy). They expect a great revival of the Holy Spirit will take place shortly before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and God will raise up “apostles” and “prophets” to lead this revival.

Some of the more prominent INC prophets include Che Ahn (Harvest International Ministries in Pasadena, CA), Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in Redding ,CA), Chuck Pierce (Glory of Zion Ministries in Corinth, TX), Cindy Jacobs (Generals International in Red Oak, TX), Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO), Lou Engle (The Call in Colorado Springs, CO), Dutch Sheets (Dutch Sheets Ministries in Dallas, TX), Lance Wallnau (Lance Learning Group in Dallas, TX), Jeremiah Johnson (Jeremiah Johnson Ministries in Charlotte, NC), Kat Kerr (Revealing Heaven Ministries of Jacksonville, FL), and Shawn Bolz (Bolz Ministries of Studio City, CA).

INC prophets and apostles believe that they have been appointed to serve as God’s agents in ushering in his future kingdom, a process that many describe as God “bringing heaven to earth.” They are thus deeply attracted to Seven Mountain Dominionism, the belief that Jesus will not return until society comes under the dominion of Jesus Christ. Drawing from Isaiah 2:2 (“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains”), INC prophets want to reclaim seven cultural “mountains”: family, government, arts and entertainment, media, business, education, and religion. The goal is to place God’s appointed leaders atop these cultural mountains as a means of setting the stage for the time when God will bring heaven to earth.

As early as 2007, INC prophet Kim Clement received a word from God: “Trump shall become a trumpet. I will raise up Trump to become a trumpet, and Bill Gates to open up the gate of a financial realm for the church.” Early in the 2016, Wallnau received a similar words: “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.” When Wallnau’s prophecy caught the attention of Trump’s evangelical supporters, he was invited to attend a meeting with the candidate and other evangelical leaders in Trump Tower. As Wallnau listened to Trump talk about his desire to give evangelicals a more prominent voice in government, he sense that God was giving him an “assignment”–a “calling related to this guy .” One day, while he was reading his Facebook page, Wallnau saw a meme predicting that Trump would be the “45th president of the United States.” God told Wallnau to pick up his Bible and turn to Isaiah 45. On reading the passage, Wallnau realized that, not only would Trump be a “wrecking ball” to political correctness, but he would be elected president of the United States in the spirit of the ancient Persian king Cyrus. In the Old Testament, Cyrus was the secular political leader whom God used to send the exiled kingdom of Judah back to the Promised Land so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its holy Temple. Wallnau was shocked by this discovery. “God was messing with my head,” he told Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers INC and other Pentecostal and charismatic movements.

In early 2015, Cindy Jacobs claimed that God said to her, “I have a trump card in my hand and I’m gonna play it and I’m gonna trump the system.” When Trump announced his candidacy in 2016, Jacobs supported his candidacy through “prayer walks” through seven swing states. Jacobs was one of the religious leaders who stood behind Trump on the White House lawn when he announced an executive order on religious liberty on May 4, 2017.

Frank Amedia, an INC apostle who claims to have presented Trump with a note at a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio, telling the candidate that God had revealed to him that it was a “forgone conclusion” that he would win the GOP nomination, worked as Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy.” Amedia has led several of these INC leaders in the formation of an organization called POTUS Shield. The clergy associated with this organization gather regularly to pray for Trump to protect them from the Satan-inspired attacks of his political opponents. The POTUS Shield prophets seldom appeared at the White House, but they served as a kind of spiritual support group for God’s new Cyrus, who will lead America back to spiritual and economic prosperity and help to set the stage for the dominion of Jesus Christ over all the earth.

Prior to Trump, INC and NAR prophets were on the fringe. The secular media didn’t even know they existed. The only outlet that covered them on a regular basis was Right Wing Watch, a project sponsored by People For the American Way. But in recent days, the Washington Post and New York Times have recognized the influence of these Christians and their massive followings. Yesterday we posted about Michelle Boorstein’s piece at The Washington Post. A few hours ago, David Brooks of The New York Times published a column that referenced Jeremiah Johnson.

As might be expected, INC and NAR prophets prophesied a Trump victory in 2020. Some of them, including Johnson, apologized. Over at Religion Unplugged, Julia Duin has a piece on how Trump’s loss has divided the INC and NAR community. Here is a taste:

At least 40 charismatic Christian leaders predicted Trump’s reelection starting around 2018, according to J. Gordon Melton, 78, the venerable compiler of the Encyclopedia of American Religions and an American religious studies professor at Baylor University. 

“Only a handful [of prophets] got it right on the 2016 election,” said Melton, “so they all jumped into this election and with one exception,” a Black prophet from North Carolina whose name he did not recall, “they were wrong.”

This is the second major hit this movement has taken in less than a year, he added. The first was during a prophetic summit last year.

“Last November when [evangelist] Cindy Jacobs had her meeting in Dallas, none of the prophets at that meeting – and it was the elite who were there – none of them hinted that anything like the coronavirus was coming,” Melton said. “That has come back to haunt them.”

Some in the movement are still holding out for some kind of last-minute miracle from God that would magically reverse the election and install Trump as president on Jan. 20. The Dallas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one. On Jan. 7, host Gene Bailey and several other prophets appearing on a ministry broadcast known as Flashpoint, floated conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. All of them encouraged listeners to continue believing in prophecies of a Trumpian victory.

“Many are on the side of, ‘Let’s attack one another. Let’s get on social media and attack the prophets. And let’s draw the sword on one another,’” said the Rev. Hank Kunneman, pastor of Hosts Church in Omaha, Neb. “And I think that is the greatest mistake we can make as true patriots, true Christians, those of us that are in the body of Christ.” 

God had personally assured him there would be a miraculous outcome, he added.

“I’m telling you that’s what we’re getting ready to see,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I just know this thing is not over.”