“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” – Matthew 7:15
The purpose of this series is not to tear down and accuse anyone of heresy, but to cut straight to the warning signs of a wolf in sheep’s clothing in an event or organization.
Today I’m looking at “The Call”, and its 40-day fast event scheduled for this year. I offer these red flags in order of visibility, not necessarily in order of importance.
Red Flag #1: no clear leadership
The call to fast is a serious one, both in the Bible and in the Church Age. Yes, “The Call” is an invitation, not a command, but it heavily utilizes Old Testament language (particularly from Joel chapter 2) to “proclaim” this fast. But who is making this proclamation? An organiation, not a church. This is stepping on the toes of the Church, when a parachurch ministry organization sees fit to act as if it were a church in the fullest sense. This lack of respect for the rest of the Church is also made apparent in other ways on The Call’s website, such as in its careful use of the word Ekklesia instead of Church, and lack of clear connection to the ministry of any church or denomination. This is a maverick operation, and thus must raise a red flag for the discerning Christian.
Red Flag #2: the Church’s success is dependent upon political circumstances.
The description begins with a huge theological statement: “we have only a short window in the days of President Trump for the greatest revival and awakening in America’s history. Without it, I see no future for America. We must seize our divine moment.” The mission, ministry, and success of the Gospel has no reliance upon earthly rulers. There is nothing special about any one President’s administration; the Spirit will advance the Gospel of Christ with or without a given state’s cooperation. It is good to be urgent about prayer and fasting, and fervent about spiritual devotions, but appealing to political circumstance as any sort of critical component to the success of Christianity is simply idolatrous.
Red Flag #3: the Church’s success is depending upon human effort
As the event’s author goes on, he cites as one of this encouragements a book chapter entitled “Fasting Precipitates the Latter Rain.” There may be a more nuanced explanation for this, but context suggests that this means that “the latter rain” (a buzzword for spiritual blessing and growth) needs fasting in order to take place. The Holy Spirit, as much as he seeks our cooperation in His work, does not need us in order to succeed. The Gospel is the work of God; we are not precipitates of God’s success, maybe we’re catalysts at best. If something or someone demands something of you in order for God to accomplish something, they don’t know the sovereign power of God!
Red Flag #4: re-appropriating Old Testament prophecies for modern application
“The Call” goes on to discuss the rise of the modern nationstate of Israel, attributing prophetic significance to it. It takes the Old Testament character of King Cyrus and turns him into an archetype that can be applied to any number of other figures, most noteably in recent times, President Trump. Such lack of ability to understand the Old Testament Prophets in the context of the Old and New Covenants results in all sorts of wonky “prophecies” about the present and near future which are entirely erroneous. Old Testament prophecies tend to find their fulfillment in Christ, especially at/on the Cross. The tendency to keep looking for more Cyrus’s to rescue God’s people reveals a lack of trust in the victory of Christ on the Cross, and (at best) distracts the Christian from fruitful reading of Scriptures and living a Cross-centered life.
Red Flag #5: nostalgia about failed religious movements
“The Call” seeks to catalyze a Third Great Awakening in this country, which is a fine enough desire, but it also is described to be pursuing a new “Jesus People Movement.” The Jesus Movements of the 60’s and 70’s were theological and spiritual dead ends. They did not increase the Church in the long run. People got excited about the idea of Jesus – or too often, their own idea of Jesus – and did some radical things in His name, but ultimately did not make a lasting impact on the life of God’s people, the Church. What we should learn from this is that the individualistic disconnect from the greater Body of Christ is a waste of time. As God’s people, we must as act as one Body, with Christ as our head. While renewal and refreshment are laudable goals and desires, seeking a “new outpouring of the Holy Spirit” as if He is not already fully present in the Word and Sacraments entrusted to the Church is rather sacrilegious.