Old Testament prophets thundered against ungodliness. In the New Testament, the prophetic gifts of Apostles helped strengthen the early church.
Two Colorado Springs ministries say their leaders exercise prophetic gifts and apostolic roles, and both are holding national conferences here soon.
Dutch Sheets Ministries will host Forward: An Appeal to Heaven here Thursday through Saturday. Promotional materials for the conference mix theology and politics, saying the event will prepare believers for their roles in things to come.
"We are entering a new era. The greatest harvest of souls in history is about to begin. And the giants ruling this nation will fall. Don't watch from the sidelines - find your warrior nature!"
The conference will be livestreamed on dutchsheets.org.
The Call, a ministry founded by Lou Engle, is holding Contend America here July 16-20. Promotional materials say: "IT'S NOT A CONFERENCE. IT'S A CALL TO CHANGE HISTORY." The event will feature Christian bands and speakers during "5 days of united fasting and prayer to turn America back to God."
David Kim, an executive with The Call and the conference organizer, said he hopes it attracts 600 to 800 young people this year, up from a few hundred last year.
Sessions will focus on depression and suicide among young people, racism, evangelism and community service. Fasting is voluntary, with some participants skipping all food for three days while others may abstain from smart phones, media or desserts.
"A deep compassion and love for young people is why we exist," said Kim, "and our goal is to disciple young leaders to follow a biblical lifestyle of prayer, fasting and obedience to Jesus."
Sheets declined to speak with The Gazette.
New spin on ancient tradition
Spiritual gifts such as prophecy and speaking in tongues are not common in U.S. churches, but outbreaks of such gifts appeared during the First and Second Great Awakenings.
The Azusa Street revival of 1906 gave birth to the Pentecostal movement and Pentecostal denominations, such as the Assemblies of God. The charismatic movement of the 1960s introduced spiritual gifts and energized worship to churches in many traditions.
Sheets and Engle go further, saying God has restored the offices of Prophet and Apostle in our day in preparation for a Third Great Awakening. This movement got its start in the Springs.
C. Peter Wagner, a professor at Fuller Seminary and a founder of the World Prayer Center near New Life Church, launched his New Apostolic Reformation movement here in late 1999. No more would churches be "governed by teachers and administrators," Wagner said. Now things would be run by God's newly appointed apostles and prophets.
"We are currently witnessing the most radical change in the way of 'doing church' since the Protestant Reformation," said Wagner, who died in 2016.
Dutch Sheets wrote a best-selling book on intercessory prayer. His website says he leads an "apostolic, prophetic and teaching ministry" to "empower believers for a Third Great Awakening."
Sheets says one of his dreams featured Protestant reformer John Knox, angels who "morphed into an Army of Special Forces," and movie star John Wayne, a recurring dream figure representing tenacity and justice.
Lou Engle calls himself a visionary and says plans for some of The Call's events come to him in visions. Last year he urged Christian women to rise up and battle secular feminists and witches opposing Trump. "There were certain powers of darkness in America that could only be broken by women. It was the hour where witches worldwide were cursing President Trump, and this feminist movement rising that is not founded on the word of God."
The Call, founded in 1999, operates a Spiritual Air Force Academy in the Springs to train believers to "strategically deploy thunderous prayer into the hardest and darkest places of the earth." SAFA, complete with its "dedicated War Room" for prayer, recently was renamed the Set Apart for Awakening School, and it is accepting students for fall.
Over the past 40 years, evangelical churches have become active in politics. Sheets and Engle promote a form of politicized prophecy.
Both have prophesied and politicked in support of President Trump, and both are part of a network called POTUS Shield that enlists Christians to pray and fast to defend the president from impeachment, attacks from witches, assaults from the demonic left, and fake news from the godless media.
The God one hears in many of Sheets' prophecies could serve as a Fox News pundit. Sheets proclaims God wants to bring about a "righteous shift" in the Supreme Court, uproot the embedded Deep State, defeat the liberal media and protect the Second Amendment. A prophecy Sheets received from his brother Tim said: "Disregard the fake collusion, and come against the real collusion, the collusion of hell in its diabolical schemes."
Engle sought a Trump victory in 2016, writing: "Even now, The Call Team have locked themselves away for 40 days in Colorado Springs to fast and pray for a Third Great Awakening and for a shift in these elections."
More recently, Engle prophesied that Neil Gorsuch would be only the first of five Supreme Court justices Trump appoints after God "sweeps away" unbelieving, liberal judges.
Destined to rule
Engle and Sheets teach a dominionist theology that says God is preparing his faithful followers to govern the Earth economically and politically.
"We're called to rule! To change history! To be co-regents with God!" said Engle, a member of the POTUS Shield Council at a POTUS Shield event in Ohio last summer. "We will govern over kings, and judges will have to submit."
Engle's "Keys to Dominion" teaching says: "The Church has been watching the parade of history move along. We have been called to lead. We are the head, and not the tail. In friendship and partnership with God, the Church is meant to lead the parade of history and rule the nations!"
Sheets promoted a similar agenda in a Charisma magazine column titled, "Dutch Sheets Reveals the Key to Governmental Authority."
"We must realize that we are God's governing force on the earth," said Sheets. "For such a time as this, God has prepared and positioned kingdom ambassadors to wield His influence and shape our national destiny. The Lord has called Dutch Sheets Ministries, and other similar ministries, to partner with Him by making bold governmental decrees."
In another Charisma column, "Dutch Sheets Urges Prophetic Generation to Arise With Governmental Intercession," he rallied believers to action.
"Church, it's time to arise in God's governmental authority - to direct, control, regulate, influence, restrain, steer and regulate the future course of this great nation - to maintain the status of superiority that God has given to us."
John Fea, a history professor at Messiah College, says dominionist theology and prophecies about politics forget that Jesus turned down Satan's temptation to exercise worldly power.
Fea says prophets such as Sheets and Engle are among "court evangelicals" who hail Caesar instead of speaking hard truths to rulers.
"Evangelicals claim to follow a Savior who relinquished worldly power," writes Fea in his new book, "Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Trump."
"Yet they continue to place their hope in political candidates as a means of advancing an agenda that confuses the kingdom of God with the United States of America."
Sheets and Engle are part of another new movement that's reshaping evangelical Christianity. They work through networks of affiliation rather than churches or denominational structures, promoting their ministries through attractive websites, social media and conferences.
Network Christians are part of "the fastest-growing Christian subgroup in America," according to the authors of the 2017 book, "The Rise of Network Christianity."
Co-author Brad Christerson, a sociology professor at Biola University, describes Network Christianity as "a collection of strong leaders who know each other and combine and recombine for specific projects."
For example, Sheets and Engle speak at each other's events, and both are part of other networks. Dutch Sheets Ministries networks with the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, a group C. Peter Wagner founded in 1999. Engle networks with POTUS Shield and other groups.
Christerson says such groups are more flexible and scalable than churches and denominations with large bureaucracies.
"These groups are also different from other forms of Christianity because their leaders are not content simply to connect individuals to God and grow congregations," said Christerson. "Instead, they seek to bring 'heaven' - God's intended perfect society - to Earth by placing Christians in powerful positions at the top of all sectors of society."
Christerson worries that some network groups have "broken off from the rest of Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity in significant ways" and lack the "accountability and obligation that traditional denominational structures usually entail."