Taking Our Cities For God, written by John Dawson is over 10 years old. Why would A.F.I. bother reviewing a book that some might consider outdated and seldom read? The reason is because it is still heavily recommended reading for YWAM youth and staff across the globe today. YWAM's DTS (Discipleship Training Schools) feature this book (in some form) as source material in some classes and the students are taught to implement these prayer and spiritual warfare practices.
I believe this book advances many themes that can be considered both unbiblical and misinformed. I actually marvel that Dawson has had such a following after publishing a book like this one. Nevertheless, YWAMer after YWAMer (both in India and abroad) have sat under, absorbed, and consequently spread some of these strange doctrines all over the world.
Dawson is revered for his "insight" into the spiritual realm. He has written what many consider a landmark book. He is cited and quoted by many and revered by just as many in the Third Wave camp. He's currently a key figure in the unbiblical "Reconciliation" movement (www.reconcile.org).
This review is written in hopes that some here in India (and elsewhere) will recognize along with us the danger of publishing a work that relies heavily on extra-biblical revelation under the guise of a biblical understanding of prayer and spiritual warfare. Sooner or later someone needs to stand against some of this non-biblical, nonsensical teaching and stop its spread. This review will be lengthy and somewhat thorough because Dawson brings up many issues that need to be dealt with. (Note: there is some truth in this book and that will be noted when possible, BUT the fact that it is laid alongside error renders it dangerous and a spiritual hazard).
The Third Wave Movement is cresting
now and flooding into our countries. But let's go back in time to when
this movement was starting as a ripple, and take a look at Taking Our
Cities For God. Because it is considered an important work in Third
Wave and YWAM circles, and labeled "Holy Spirit insight" (p. 11
Foreword comments by Jack Hayford), then it warrants being tested by the
Word of God to determine its validity.
The Foreword is by famous Word-Faith adherent and Third-Wave endorser, Jack Hayford of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California. Having Jack Hayford endorse this book is significant, because here's a man who, himself believes in revelation beyond the Bible. Here's a Charisma magazine account about an alleged vision Pastor Jack was given from God:
"Hayford… related a vision in which he had seen Jesus seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father. In Hayford's vision, Jesus began to lean forward and rise from His seat. As the anointing caught in the folds of His garments, it began to splash out and fall over the church. Jesus said, "I am beginning to rise now in preparation for my second coming. Those who will rise with Me will share in this double portion of anointing." (From the article "Pentecostals Set Priorities", Charisma Magazine, p.44, January 1991).
It's painfully obvious from this account that Hayford is prone to the supernatural as well as new revelations from God. God granting a vision is one thing, but it is clear here that Hayford sees the Word-Faith version of "the anointing" as being a tangible, flowing force.
Here's another disturbing quote from the beloved Pastor of the church that famous heretics Paul and Jan Crouch (TBN Praise the Lord hosts) call "home":
"And yet when I say that the Lord has spoken to me, I mean something even more specific than general revelation or private inner impressions. I reserve these words intentionally for the rare, special occasions when, in my spirit, I have had the Lord speak directly to me…the Lord spoke words to me. Those words have been so distinct that I feel virtually able to say 'And I quote'". (Jack Hayford, Glory On Your House,(Grand rapids: Chosen Books, 1982;revised edition:1991. p. 139).
I share this initial concern because I believe it was extremely significant that Hayford was chosen to write the Foreword. This book is about information gained largely from sources other than Scripture, and the texts Dawson will quote from the Bible are, in many cases, distorted and taken out of context. Given the fact that Hayford also believes in revelation beyond scripture, and the fact that he endorses Word/Faith heresies, it makes his glowing endorsement of Taking Our Cities For God alarming.
(For more on Jack Hayford: www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/hayford/general.htm).
We've shared previously that he calls this book "Holy Spirit insight"(p. 11). Jack laments the church that has been "charmed by the intellectualism of our culture" (Ibid.) to the point that we are powerless and in need of guidance to understand the spiritual realm. I can assure you however, that if you value intellectualism or sound teaching about spiritual warfare, this may not be the book for you. In addition, given some of the beliefs held by Hayford, one wonders whether he actually operates on healthy levels of insight or discernment himself.
Hayford continues his praise of Dawson by telling us he is "gifted with unusual insight and skill at expressing what God has shown him" (p.12) and also adds that this book is definitely "something new"(Ibid.).
These are big claims and flow from the pen of a big-name pastor. I fear Hayford is altogether accurate when he talks of the newness of these teachings, because many of them are definitely not found in our Bible. To say Dawson's insight is "unusual" is almost an understatement.
One last claim from the Foreword describes the way Dawson has laid out his new teachings (revelations):
"He (Dawson) does it without becoming weird, mystical, or peculiar." (Ibid.).
That's a claim that I'm afraid is obliterated by the end of the first chapter as we will see…
(Titles courtesy of A.F.I.)
Chapter 1 is called "Seventh Time
Around" and starts off with the first of many YWAM stories. We should expect
this because John Dawson has a heritage and current involvement with this
organization (his parents are the famous Joy Dawson (who's been a guest
on Benny Hinn's program: www.deceptioninthechurch.com/hinnywam.html ;www.letusreason.org/curren29.htm
and her husband Jim, with YWAM from the beginning). This story involves
a torch bearing prayer run that YWAMers were undergoing across the United
States to "claim" America for Jesus. Right away, however, the story shifts
to Cordoba, Argentina, where a frustrated YWAM mission team is praying
and fasting for a breakthrough. Then, after some time:
"The Holy Spirit began to reveal the nature of the unseen realm over Cordoba…"(p.18).
We're only one page into the actual book and already the extra-biblical revelation references begin:
"We were discerning a principality attempting to rule the city in the pride of life, so we had to confront it in an opposite spirit with a strategy of personal humility…"(p.19).
I think it is interesting that this is the first of many demon powers that is linked with a sin of the heart. It seems that most of the titles or designations of the demons that YWAM intercessors end up "discerning" actually refer to personal sins and vices rather than actual demonic personalities (more on that topic later). At least, in the Bible we don't see the "pride of life" demon, nor are we told to counteract "it" with opposing behavior. Biblical theology teaches that pride is a heart condition that is broken or countered by evangelism being shared to lead the prideful in heart to repentance and conversion. It's unlikely that this was an actual entity gripping Cordoba.
This same idea of spiritual warfare through counteraction to cancel out a demon's power is restated on page 20. According to Dawson, there will be limited success in inner-city evangelism:
"…Until we discern the nature of the enemy's deception and "bind the strong man" by acting in the opposite spirit."
Where is this taught in Scripture? Where are we taught that oppression can be broken and a demon's alleged reign over a city can be broken counteracting the specific vice of a ruling demon? I fear that Dawson got this "insight" from somewhere other than the pages of the Bible, but then, in this book, there's a lot of that going around.
Dawson then writes:
"To overcome the enemy we must resist temptation ourselves and then continue in united, travailing prayer until we sense that we have gained authority and that God has broken through." (P.20-21).
Resisting temptation is biblical but we must note that he constantly uses "we sensed", "I sensed", phrases throughout this book. It is clear that a great deal of John's perception of God speaking and things happening in the spirit realm are based on little more than sensual experience.
Quick question: Mr. Dawson, how do you know "God's broken through"? How does that feel? Much of his decision-making and the guidance that YWAM founder Loren Cunningham and other YWAMers advocate is oftentimes not from the Bible but is heavily dependent on feelings, impressions, and sensations.
Dawson tries to support the above statements with a biblical proof text (Josh. 6-7). Can we use this historical event to support spiritual warfare praying? In this passage, God commands Israel to march around Jericho seven times and they would see victory. Strange commands, right? Sure, but God is God and knew exactly what His plan was even though it might seem absurd to us. At any rate, Dawson begins his attempt to prove his spiritual warfare views in this passage:
"That they (Israel) had to march in silence is probably a clue to the nature of the unseen realm over Jericho. If they had been free to respond to the insults and mockery hurled from the walls, a spirit of contention, pride and anger may have been loosed among the people."(P.21).
Dawson inserts the above notion into the Scripture passage and then continues with a flawed conclusion:
"God's people would never overcome using the enemy's own perverse methods, so they walked in silent self-control until the victory shout, and, by God's power, the walls came tumbling down."(Ibid.).
Why did Israel walk in silence until the shout? Because God told them to. The walls fell because God had ordered and ordained that to happen. The success of their victory over Jericho was not a result of the people of Israel "counteracting" some rival spirit over Jericho! The Bible doesn't teach spiritual warfare explicitly in this passage at all and that was not the point of Joshua 6. Dawson has added his own elements to the account and they have no original support biblically in this passage.
Dawson then shares with the readers his agenda and primary objective he is trying to show in this book:
"This book focuses on the deliverance of cities and nations rather than individuals…"(Ibid.).
We must understand that a city or
a nation wouldn't be a city or a nation without individuals. Where are
we taught to convert cities and nations as opposed to individuals in the
Bible? Evangelism is all about people sharing with other people
in these cities and nations. Dawson separates cities and nations into almost
personal entities and distinct from the people who live in them. The
fact is, the people need saved not the city. (Unfortunately, in Chapter
3, Dawson will make it clear why he makes this distinction. Read on…)
"Psssst! Your lack of discernment is showing…"(Chapter 2 Review)
Chapter 2 is entitled "The Discerning of Spirits", but don't let that fool you. Discernment seems in short supply here. It is extremely ironic that Dawson begins this chapter with an endorsement of famous New Age Word/Faither Paul (David) Yonggi Cho from Korea. If that's discernment then pass me a dictionary please.
Hearing Cho speak got Dawson's gears turning and he began to ponder some deep issues concerning the possibility that he himself might be deceived in some areas. Additional food for thought was this instance:
"Two intercessors in different cities had recently told me that a spirit of accusation was attempting to destroy my family and ministry. What did that really mean? How should I come against it? I can't become paranoid about demons, I thought."(P.24).
Here we have a perfect example of the baggage bestowed on others from many in the prophetic ministry today. Because they were from two different cities, apparently Dawson took them as being from God. At any rate, he then struggles with paranoia over this disturbing revelation. I offer to you that paranoia is exactly what would result if I were told I had an evil spirit personally assigned to destroy my life. (If I was inclined to believe in this class of pseudo-prophets today).
Here's a thought: Satan is the ultimate Accuser (Rev. 12:10) who, day and night, with all his wrath seeks to destroy God's work in us. How did these two intercessors know the identity of the spirit assigned to torment John Dawson? Answer: Extra-biblical revelation. There it is again.
Quick question: Are there spirits of "accusation" mentioned anywhere in the Bible? Could it be that this is just another fruit of bad teachings going around that assign works of the flesh and sins of the heart to demons, thereby giving them undue credit and alleviating personal responsibility?
If I were John Dawson, I think I would be more than slightly concerned about the hounding of the Holy Spirit, who might be trying to get my attention and help clear up some of the falsehood I was getting in to. Nevertheless, Dawson offers the following story to confirm the intercessors insight and his own suspicions. After getting off a plane with his wife and kids, he got into the family van and:
"As soon as the door opened, I sensed it (there's that phrase again). I felt the oppression of an evil spirit right in the van with my wife and three sons - not possessing anybody, just lurking in the background…"(p. 24).
As Dawson continues to drive home (with the "hitchhiker spirit" in the back seat), he begins to recollect past strife and bad attitudes in his family and immediately concludes that they must banish this spirit from their home. They prayed and "sensed" the departure of the demon. Could it be that this demon was the sole cause of strife and attitudes that needed adjusting? Probably not. As fallen humans trying to coexist with one another, we will have those things and we need not always search for a demon behind them. Usually, for those types of sin that are normal in a fallen family, we need look no farther than our human hearts.
He continues to share of other instances of spiritual oppression, including "spirits of unbelief" in a YWAM boardroom. His only verification of this spirit's presence was visualization in his "mind's eye" and the fact that people dealing with the finances in YWAM were "unusually anxious". I'm sorry to say that Dawson's involvement with the demonic is only evidenced (thus far) by strange tendencies towards visualization and sensations, accompanied with observation of normal events. Does even intense anxiety over the difficulties of finances indicate in any substantial way the presence of a spirit (not to mention one named "unbelief")? It appears that where there are these strange teachings and practices, there is the presence of paranoia and a demon becomes responsible for everything if not careful. (Maybe Dawson had an encounter with a "demon of paranoia").
"It is no surprise that I was discovering demonic activity at a Youth With A Mission base…"(p.25).
Especially if your theology virtually demands it and you take the aforementioned symptoms as evidence of demonic activity. We actually give a place to the Devil when we attribute to him things that he may not even be behind. Please understand I am not saying that there isn't some merit to what Dawson is proposing, namely, that Satan and his demons are alive and in the business of oppression and fear. I just think our view should be more balanced and careful not to presume their presence behind every stressful situation or sin.
"Let me ask you the question that I asked myself that day as I listened to Pastor Cho: When was the last time you truly exercised the gift of discernment in relation to your circumstances?"
I find the irony remarkable that Dawson would be pondering such a thing while sitting under a blatant false teacher like Paul Yonggi Cho (for an article about Cho's teachings: www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/exposes/cho/general.htm). Something is seriously wrong with that construct. It proves the powerful point that a person can use biblical terminology and yet not even see the hypocrisy of not applying the subject to themselves.
Quick question for Mr. Dawson: "Why should I listen to you teach on or claim to have discernment when you clearly can't see an obvious violation like endorsing a false teacher like Cho?" That question rings relevant for the entire subject Dawson is introducing in this book. "Why should these unbiblical notions be believed, and where is your gift of discernment?"
Dawson again cites a verse to prove his point on discernment:
"One of the abilities or gifts of Jesus' Holy Spirit within us is the ability to discern or see the activity of spirits in the unseen realm (1 Cor. 12:10)."(P.26).
Because of how Dawson words this comment, its hard to know what he means, but if one is to take the whole of his and other Third Wave teachings on this subject, they have to conclude that Dawson leaves a great deal of room for extra-biblical revelation to be included in what he calls the "gift of discernment". This verse does not teach that we actually "see" the unseen, or have knowledge to specific names of demon spirits, or that we can visualize "Peretti-esque" leathery winged satanic hordes gathered over spiritual "hot spots" around the globe.
The gift of "discerning the spirits" has more to do with being able to determine or judge the nature or origin of a teaching or attitude as we encounter it. When testing an action or teaching, we have the Spirit's wisdom and power as He illuminates the Bible for us to see clearly where a certain teaching or attitude is coming from (1 Cor. 2:10-16; I John 4:1-6). I do believe that we can, if we have discernment, understand and rightfully interpret significant actions to determine a demonic or divine influence in a person.
As I said, I'm not exactly sure what Dawson is trying to promote here but it would appear more along the lines of allowing for extra-biblical revelatory information and visualization techniques to be used in spiritual warfare. At least, I agree with Dawson's next statement:
"Discernment should not be neglected in your daily life.' (p.27).
Good advice, John, but I'm afraid some of the upcoming teachings don't reflect the biblical definition of discernment.
Take, for instance the practice of "prayer walking", mentioned at the close of Chapter 2. Dawson and his staff walked house-to-house in his neighborhood and stood outside people's home to rebuke the Devil. The idea behind prayer walking is to "take" your city, one street, block, and house at a time by praying a protective shield around places, banishing and binding spirits from certain locales, and "claiming" geographical areas for Christ.
What's the problem? It's little more than superstition to believe that you are cleansing the spiritual atmosphere by physically praying in special spots. Prayer works and its not wrong to pray for your city, but, in reality, physically "prayer-walking" does little more than give you a good cardio-vascular work-out while praying.
We don't see Jesus or the early church disciples walking the quadrants of Jerusalem to "claim" it for the Messiah. Instead we see heartfelt prayers offered for the people and preaching being done to see lives transformed. We don't see the early church walking around going house to house rebuking the devil or driving stakes in the ground at strategic intervals to claim territory and establish prayer triangles in their cities. They were largely concerned with powerful, Spirit-filled proclamation of the gospel.
Prayer -walking has become a ritualistic formula and a series of incantations to create sacred ground in the theology of the Third Wave. It has no basis in the Scriptures whatsoever and, sadly, the results are often less than conclusive or convincing. After a season of prayer walking and all the supposed demonic attacks that came with, Dawson tells of the spiritual climate of his "newly prayer-walked-over" neighborhood in Los Angeles:
"The neighborhood is no longer disintegrating…"(p.29).
Well, if that's not a grand claim…Hey, perhaps you could see this happen in your neighborhood. Or almost happen. The very next paragraph says:
"Last week a neighbor discovered a loaded pistol in my driveway just before my children came out to go to school. Drugs are sold all night several doors down at a house belonging to an alcoholic who is unchanged after years of prayer and ministry…"(Ibid.).
I'm a little confused because these sound like symptoms to me of a continuing deterioration of Dawson's neighborhood. I'm not saying that all that prayer was for nothing if people got saved. I am saying that it can't be linked to being super-effectual based on the fact that it was on-site walking prayer that mystically brought down demon powers over geographic areas. All of that is unbiblical and, well, John just doesn't make a case here by claiming his neighborhood is no longer disintegrating and then sharing those two events right in the next paragraph. Dawson's neighborhood (as well as yours and mine) will continue to disintegrate unless we share the gospel with the individuals that live there and see them give their lives to Jesus Christ.
One last thing before we leave Chapter 2: Dawson lists different demons that he believes need to be prayer-walked over and aggressively attacked in this type of prayer: Check out this list:
"Demons of hopelessness, violence and addiction,.."(Ibid.)
Remember also the spirits of "accusation", unbelief", and " confusion" from page 24. I bring this up because it is an insight into Dawson's demonology. He is ascribing to demon spirits what the Bible classifies as works of the flesh. I am not saying that demons can't have any effect or utilize these attitudes at times, but generally the Bible declares that these are sin problems that people are held personally responsible for. Keep in mind that if I can transfer all these sins to the work of demons, then it is "no longer I who sin, but the demon spirit that oppresses me" or, "The devils make me do it." As great as it would be to "pass the buck" and blame the forces of darkness for all of this, it's dangerous of Dawson and other Third Wavers to suggest that demons are directly behind the manifestations of these sins. This is, I believe, a misconception on the part of Dawson as to the origin of these traits. They are sins that our wicked flesh is quite capable of falling into and manifesting without the help of demons. Too much credit and emphasis is being placed on the spirits here.
John Dawson proposes that:
"It is the evangelization of our cities that holds the key to bringing millions of people to Christ."(P.29).
What does Dawson mean by this statement?
It becomes frightfully clear in the next chapter…
"City? If you're there, pick up please…"(Ch. 3 Review)
In Chapter 3: "A Call to the City", Dawson has some theories about what a city is and includes notions that are nothing but "weird, mystical, and peculiar" to quote Jack Hayford from the Foreword. Let's look at some of the novel ideas concerning our cities that Dawson introduces.
Chapter 3 starts with a good description of city life and how evangelism needs to take place in our urban centers. No argument there, but then, Dawson doesn't end there:
"Our new vision of Christian missions must focus on cities. If we want to bring nations to Christ, we must win their cities."(P.35).
This statement could be non-problematic except for the fact that Dawson goes somewhere else with this concept as he progresses. The idea of "winning cities" as though they were beings emerges. English Lit. Majors call this device "personification" - ascribing physical and personal characteristics to non-personal objects or things. While there's a time and a place for employing this device for poetic purposes, Dawson seems overtaken by the concept. If this was an isolated statement, then we could assume Dawson doesn't fall into this strange realm of belief, but on page 36 he actually refers to nations as "entities".
Read on as Dawson progresses in a pattern of consistent personification:
"The cities are the mind and heart of the nation…"(p. 36).
I know what he means here I think
but then he begins to talk of "discipling nations"(ibid.). These
are terms that I'm sure he means figuratively but are best reserved for
individuals. We are not told to "disciple the nations" in any mystical
sense or to "win" or "take cities". Our ministry and preaching is always
to the individual. I shouldn't even have to clarify this or explain
it but then Chapter 4 arrives…
"Blame it on the cities…"(Ch. 4 Review).
Dawson gets "unusual" in this chapter entitled: "Cities: A Blessing or a Curse?" Check this out:
"I believe our cities have the mark of God's sovereign purpose upon them. Our cities contain what I call a redemptive gift."(p. 39).
Again, Dawson seems to use terminology normally applied to God's people and not of urban settings as a whole. Does the Bible say anything about a city or any geographic location for that matter having a "redemptive gift?" The Spirit of God gives gifts to the Church not cities (1 Cor. 12).
"A city is a human institution, and like all institutions it develops a creaturehood or personality that is greater than the sum of its parts."
Actually, no it doesn't. Creaturehood and personality are exclusively organic traits. We only use these terms to generalize a certain attitude within an organization. The organization or institution is made up of real, sentient beings but does not, in and of itself, "develop" anything. What is Dawson trying to lead up to?
"Think about the personality of your city. Noted historian Arnold Toynbee, in his introduction to the book Cities of Destiny, defines the city as follows: 'In order to become a city, it would have to evolve at least the rudiments of a soul. This is perhaps the essence of cityhood'". (p. 40).
Dawson then asks:
"Does a city have a 'soul' as he puts it? Any astute observer can see that certain cities seem to embody a central dream, and there is usually both a good and evil side to that dream."(Ibid.).
Any astute observer can also see that Dawson is entering some very strange waters that resemble more of a New Age view of "city-souls" and emanations from collective conscience. Cities are not entities. They do not have souls! When putting the aforementioned statements from chapters 2 and 3 together, we can piece together the puzzling theory that supports Dawson's assertion that cities need saving or "taken for God." Want more?
"I believe God has participated in the creation of our cities both in forming their personality and in stationing high-ranking guardian angels over each one."(p.40).
Can we really say that God has formed a "personality" in our cities? Human beings are made in the Image of God. Personhood and Personality are traits that are best ascribed to beings, not cities. This is an abusive overuse of personification that tends to lean towards an animistic New Age viewpoint. This type of mysticism drastically over emphasizes the significance of our geographical cities.
He then asserts his opinion that every city has guardian angels (and we can assume he probably believes that each city has evil spirits assigned to them also). Dawson can believe that, but where does he come up with the idea? He cites Daniel 12:10 as his evidence because it mentions Michael as guardian of Israel (which, incidentally is not a city but a nation).
If Michael is the "prince of Israel" does it necessarily follow that every city has a guardian spirit? The Bible does not say that. An obvious problem would be present if this was all true. Do cities, nations, and neighborhoods all have these presiding spirit beings? Are they evil or righteous? Are they angels or demons? When we begin to focus on areas of conjecture like this, more questions arise than do answers. (Orrel Steinkamp refutes this Daniel 12:10 "proof text" in this excellent article: Spiritual Warfare Evangelism: How Did We Get Here? ).
The answers to these questions come in the form of extra-biblical visitations and messages received by many undiscerning members of Third Wave belief. Have those in this movement proved trustworthy thus far? Do they have a track record for biblical teaching or do we find more books along the lines of this one?
The primary issue is that Scripture gives no support for the wide range of Dawson's belief. We must be careful with our terms and never "read into" the Bible, things that are not there. This is speculation at best, and a doorway for extreme error at worst.
Dawson continues 'personifying" the cities:
"Satan will do anything in his power to accuse your city, to malign its redemptive gift." (p. 41).
Two points here: 1) Dawson has yet to prove any city has a redemptive gift. This is something he "senses" is true but is unable to prove it scripturally or otherwise. Here, he's already worked it in as a viable claim and speaks of it as factual. And 2) Satan is the Accuser of the brethren (people) not cities. (Rev. 12:10). Is there any biblical proof whatsoever that Satan, a real being, is concerned with spending his evil time railing and attacking a non-sentient object? No! Remember Dawson has tried to assert or imply that there's some mystical "personality" or "creaturehood" in today's cities. Here, we see him reworking the Devil's duties to include having your city's "gift" in his scope, when; again, Dawson has failed to prove cities even have a gift in the first place.
Demons hate your city's gift too:
"Principalities rule through perverting the gift of a city in the same way an individuals gift is turned to the enemy's use through sin."(Ibid.).
This is an assertion with, dare I say it? NO grounds in reality. One thing we must also keep in mind right now is that the sovereignty of God allows any rule that happens on behalf of any spirit being or human being today. The basis of a demon's authority is not based on its ability to pervert a gift, but based on the fact that God has allowed that being to temporarily rule for a given term.
I hope you can see the subtle shift that the author is also doing here. He wants the reader to buy into a mysticism that speculates way more about the nature of a city. He wants to constantly interweave the idea that a city is, in some strange way, parallel to a city-dweller.
Dawson is trying to get us to believe that we have personality as humans, and so does the city we live in; We have a soul and so does our hometown; Satan accuses us and views our city the same way; God gives gifts to us and duplicates the generosity to our physical locale; At this point, it appears that Dawson wants the reader to believe that a city is a personal entity and needs saving before its inhabitants can be reached for Christ. Absurd and aberrant.
Having established (?) this faulty foundation, Dawson shifts in to high gear with his strange ideas on how spirits rule by perverting gifts. He begins telling (almost prophetically) what famous celebrities would have done for Christ were it not for those demons ruining everything. John Lennon's ministry (according to Dawson) would have been a "minstrel-prophet"(p.42). (Just "Imagine" with Dawson, if you will). He seems less certain about Jimi Hendrix' destiny when he writes Jimi "could have become an excellent worship leader."(Ibid.).
I remember as a child when I thought Heaven's worship wouldn't sound as good if folk singer John Denver didn't get saved. When he died not having confessed a relationship with Jesus Christ, I was upset because I didn't realize the splendor that awaits all of us when we get there. I was certain that somehow Heaven's worship would not sound as sweet if John Denver didn't make it. The point is that these are yet more examples of elaborating on the non-existent. The fact is Dawson has no idea what could've been in the lives of these deceased musicians. Important for our review because it explains the next shuddering detail.
Dawson is witnessing to a porn shop owner named "Ron" and tells him:
"Ron, you're a tough guy on the outside, but inside you're soft. You have what the Bible calls a gift of mercy…"(Ibid.).
When I read this statement, I had to read it several more times to believe my eyes. Saying a statement like this really causes one to wonder if Dawson understands the meaning of regeneration or salvation. Think about what he's saying and ask yourself, "Do unbelievers have spiritual gifts?" I thought they were from the Spirit to the CHURCH (1 Cor. 12 ) Just because someone is soft inside doesn't mean they have the gift of mercy, especially if they are not yet saved. It's dangerous to use the Word of God like that. Incidentally, this man, allegedly, got saved, Dawson would have us believe partly due to this novel tactic, but I think the reason for concern here is obvious. When will it end?
Dawson spends the rest of this chapter using Jerusalem as the prototype city that showed God's purpose. Jerusalem has a destiny so does your city, he says. In the sense that God knows the beginning and end result of a city and nation, of course there is a plan involved. Dawson faultily tries to argue that point not talking into account the uniqueness of Jerusalem.
"Jerusalem's placement was no coincidence and neither is the location of your city."(P.43).
Of course this is true in a certain sense, although Jerusalem's location had little to do with its greatness. It was awesome and has a special destiny because it was and always will be "the city of the great King."(Ps. 48:2). Dawson takes this geographical location theory to a mystical level and overemphasizes the significance of certain physical aspects of cities. Even the actual name of a given city carries prophetic weight:
"Even the name of the city speaks of its destiny. Los Angeles is Spanish for "The Angels". As we have already learned, Angelos in Greek means, "messenger". God wants LA to be a messenger, communicating the good news in the midst of an end time harvest."(p. 44-45).
Everything is mystically significant with respect to the point that John Dawson is trying to prove. But this raises serious problems. If a name is a telltale sign of a city's destiny, then I should tell some of my friends to move from their current residence. Should my friends move from their street in Hawaii because the translation in English is "Paved in Blood"? What destiny does that indicate?
In my own case, I am living in "ShivShakti" nagar in Mumbai, India. The name of my town means "The Power of Shiva", who is a Hindu god. Does this mean that the destiny of this village is glorify Shiva until the name is changed? What is God's plan for this geographical area? For sure, it involves individuals who are free to accept or reject the personal gift of salvation offered to them regardless of the name of their city.
Back to Dawson's example, God hasn't divinely chosen LA as a "messenger city" because of its name. For that matter, He wants believers in all cities to testify of Him. Thus far, we have no evidence that the City of Angels "as a whole" is getting anymore angelic.
Dawson ends Chapter 4 on a prophetic note:
"God will pour out revelation concerning His redemptive plans for the city."(Ibid.).
Here's the key to describing most
of the premises in Taking Our Cities For God - EXTRA-BIBLICAL
REVELATION! Sorry for shouting, but that's what this book and these
concepts are largely based on.
"Alas, cruel city streets…"(Ch. 5 Review)
Dawson gives some good sociological information in this chapter about the changes that city life has undergone. He also (thankfully) departs from the strange city-soul, entity stuff. But this chapter is not without some bothersome statements, particularly in the areas of his view of "revival".
"I believe that our old pictures of revival are an encouragement, but I also believe that they can become one of the greatest hindrances to our faith. Why? Because the villages that Charles Finney and Evan Roberts described bear no resemblance to our modern cities."(p. 52).
I don't disagree with the assertion that our living conditions are different now, and if Dawson left it here, we wouldn't need to include it. I think the nature of the hang-up here is that Dawson views revival as having something to do with city demographics and physical features. This next statement will clarify what I mean:
"Think of revival hitting the modern city…Revival will not spread from house to house in the dormitory suburbs of the modern city"(p.53).
Well, God has finally met his match. Apparently, His power would do little to penetrate the urban and suburban world today. I say "Why Not?" The Holy Spirit of God moves and is unhindered by any physical circumstances including our present living conditions. True revival can happen anywhere and spread as God ordains. A more probable cause that we are not seeing revival today is because of all the false teachings and faulty ideas being promoted about it, as well as the fact that the Bible predicts apostasy in these last days as opposed to this "coming revival" that the Third Wave prophesies is on the way.
It is painfully clear that false teaching and heresy can travel unhindered throughout our urban constructs, why wouldn't the power of God have the same strength? The main principles for revival are a repentant heart and a sovereign outpouring from God. Physical environments don't hinder God.
Dawson does share a good insight at the end of this chapter when he laments the "missing generation" (p.54) of today's youth. I, too, share his concern for the young people of today. I agree that it would be awesome to see God move in their hearts in any city. But I also lament the fact that so many youth in YWAM are being taught these concepts in Taking Our Cities For God and other books YWAM publishes and promotes.
"The average Christian, overwhelmed by the sheer size of the city and its problems, prays for the city with very low expectations. However, behind the walls and rooftops, behind the storefronts and landscaping, individual people live their lives as part of small villages of communication."(p. 55).
I think that this is a proper perspective
of the city and how to pray for the people living there as the main focus.
Let's hope he stays with this concept.
"Tossed to and fro…"
(Ch. 6 Review)
AFI Note: This Chapter's Review is lengthy because some weightier subjects like Revival and God's sovereignty are introduced.
Well, we don't always get what we wish for. Chapter 6 begins with another questionable reference, this time to Floyd McClung of long-time YWAM fame. McClung has since taken over the ministry at false prophet Mike Bickle's church in Kansas City, USA, and is a proponent of the Third Wave movement in association with false prophets and apostles.
Read now as Dawson twists certain truths and brings them under the sway of his own feelings and those "sensations" that he so often uses as his guides for what is true:
"The God of the Bible is the God who sweeps in like a mighty rushing wind. He answers by fire. He is the God of great awakenings and generation-wide revivals." (P. 58).
This statement is true. God has worked as all of those things and in all of those ways. He does possess great power, but here's the objection. There is so often such a focus on the acts of astounding power and those times where God broke through to us in supernatural fury, that those in Word-faith and Third Wave churches are primed to expect these awesome events as commonplace and normative for our Christian lives today. There becomes so much of a focus on "signs and wonders" that many live lives of disappointment when God doesn't manifest Himself in exactly those ways.
Regardless of the claims and stories arising today from these movements, signs and wonders on any biblical scale are sorely lacking. Sadly, fabricated fables and faulty facts abound in this area (Take for example George Otis Jr.'s Transformations video series: http://www.bibleguidance.co.za/Engarticles/Transformations.htm ).
Read on as Dawson describes a man-centered perception of how God should be moving today. After sharing about a fruitful mission trip to the 1984 Olympics, Dawson says:
"We had experienced a touch of revival at that time, but now I was seeing myself two years later as just a busy religious executive struggling to manage the result of a past success…"(Ibid.).
This problem is commonplace in ministry and abounds whenever we begin to view the church as a machine that the correct program can cause to run smoothly. Note here that Dawson feels frustrated because he is in the aftermath period of a revival time. According to some in this movement, these "down times" can be deadly to faith, especially if they have been trained to seek the God who "answers by fire"(P. 58).
Discouragement and desperation arises when we get our eyes off the sovereign work of God in the building of His church. I can identify with John here but readily admit that the only solution to those times of weariness is to submit to God afresh.
False prophet Mike Bickle says that God MUST answer prayers in a big way because "without the breakthrough, we'll die…" (International School of the Prophets Conference 2000, Tape # 000512011A, Friday May 12,2000, 11:00AM session). Does that sound like faithful waiting on the Living God and being satisfied with trusting Him even when He doesn't "break through' with a sign or a wonder? I bring up Bickle because, at this time, Dawson has affiliations with him, as does Floyd McClung (This is confirmed on the abovementioned tape as well).
Here's where Dawson gets strange though:
"I had lost sight of the big picture. I no longer felt the sense of God's mighty presence brooding over the city…" (P. 58).
Here we go again. Dawson uses his feelings to judge the current spiritual reality surrounding the city he was in. I have to say that just because we don't always "feel the sense" of God's presence, doesn't in any way mean that it is God who has departed. In a man-centered view, we begin to judge the presence of God by whether or not He is manifesting Himself radically or whether or not we can "sense" Him. This is dangerous because our senses and perceptions are famous for leading all of us astray. We need to cling to God's written word and the fact that Christ said He would never leave those who are His (Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5). Only then can we rightly function with the knowledge that He is still in control and ever-present.
I'm sure that John would agree with me here and the point he is making reflects all of us in our Christian lives at times, but we must always ask ourselves, regardless of what we feel, "Who moved away? Was it the Lord or us?"
Here's the faulty conclusion Dawson is leading up to:
"We as believers hold the fate of our cities in our hands. Revival or judgment - what will it be?" (Ibid.).
Man-centered? Oh yes. Viewpoints like this one, which remove from the forefront of our minds the reality of the sovereign work of God, are dangerous breeding grounds for our sinful pride. Imagine that we are responsible personally for the spiritual outcome of our cities and countries. I'm not saying we are not personally responsible to live obedient lives and be good witnesses, but we are not the generators of revival! God Himself sovereignly rains judgment or renewal as He wills. The Spirit moves as He sees fit. I cant save anybody, I can only lead him or her to the Savior and then God does the work in the human heart. In fact, chances are, the majority of the people living in our cities, states and countries will not be saved.
Jesus said, speaking of eternal life, "few there be who find it." (Matt. 7:14). That's from the lips of the Lord Jesus, who also asked whether or not He would even "find faith on the earth" (Luke 18:8) when He comes again.
Understand, that I am not being pessimistic and I believe in the power of the Almighty, but I urge you to shun the man-centered spirituality that is being promoted to us from writings like this one. Let's lean together on the strong arm of the Lord and trust Him for the results of the Harvest. That's humility, faithfulness, and honoring to God.
To support his theory of Christians being personally responsible for the fate of their cities, Dawson relates a story of something that happened (or almost happened?) in Los Angeles in 1984:
"I believe that in that summer of 1984 something terrible was about to happen in Los Angeles and that it was averted through the repentance, obedience, and earnest prayer of thousands of Christians across the city…"(P. 61).
How did John know or "sense" this looming peril that never happened? Well, According to the preceding paragraphs from pages 60-61, this crisis was revealed through the following avenues: Misinterpretation of scripture passages God "gave" him and others, and "holy hunches":
"I remember meditating on Lev.26: 31 with a distinct sense that this was what God was actually saying about my city: "I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to destruction." (P. 60).
He also "felt the need" (Ibid.) to intercede with others city-wide who had also received "warnings of impending disaster" (Ibid.)
I guess this next occurrence sealed the need to pray against the certain (?) doom coming to L.A. on this unspecified day in 1984:
"As we waited before the Lord, Scripture references came to mind, mostly unfamiliar passages…they were all pronouncements of severe judgment." (Ibid.).
Thus far, John's "case" for perceiving forthcoming calamity involves sensory impressions and, at least in the instance of Lev. 26:31, verses of judgment taken out of context. Clearly this entire 26th chapter has Israel in view. Dawson favored quoting this verse because it mentions the destruction of "cities" but any Believer who loves God's Word knows that each verse must be considered in light of its context.
We can isolate or distort a verse or Scripture passage to support ANY premise or receive ANY promise we choose and completely miss the intention of the Holy- Spirit- inspired writer. Are these verses that sprang to mind sufficient evidence that God was going to utterly annihilate L.A.?
The same passages in Leviticus also say that the same recipients of judgment (actually Israel, in this case) would be "scattered" (6:33) and even be cannibalistic (6:29). Quick question for Mr. Dawson: "John, just how bad would the future site for the destroyed Los Angeles be?" I guess we are indebted as the human race to Dawson and his prayer warriors for "sensing" what no one else did on that fateful unspecified day…or so he wants us to believe.
It is safe to assume that Leviticus 6 and the other passages of impending destruction towards cities that God "gave" the intercessors have nothing to do with Los Angeles, at least there is no evidence beyond human opinion and sensation that L.A. was in any more trouble than usual. This is actually leaning towards aspects of what is known as Replacement Theology and is heavily utilized by false teachers like Dawson to prove their Dominionist ideals. It is a tragic thing when the significance of Israel is rendered meaningless by twisting passages to make them apply to anything else. Dawson does this so much and massacres the Old Testament in the attempt to prove these warfare theories. The case in point here is taking these verses clearly referring to Israel and applying them to an imaginary calamity that amounts to being little more than a false prophecy at this point.
Jack Hayford also joined in the growing concern for L.A.'s "Doom's Day". He called Dawson and said that he was "sensing" that it was time to gather and pray to turn God's hand away from smiting the City of Angels. Loren Cunningham (Founder of YWAM, famous for asking the ever-pertinent question: "Is That Really You, God?") and 6000 YWAMers interceded for the city that day until 4:30 when they received their "breakthrough":
"Not until 4:30 that afternoon did that season of travail begin to change. Simultaneously, many prayer groups began to receive prophetic words and portions of Scripture describing God's protection and God's mercy." (P.61).
Understand please, dear reader that A.F.I. is not against corporate prayer. What distresses me and others who take seriously the written revelation of God's Word is that these groups and authors like John Dawson continually claim to "receive" so much from God by way of extra-biblical revelation about all kinds of events. John's mother Joy Dawson, comments in her latest book Forever Ruined for the Ordinary that God even speaks to her about where her lost writing pen is located. That's specific!
The questions we must ask is 'Do
these people really have such an "inside track" to God? Why are they so
blessed with this otherworldly sensory perception and "ears to hear" God's
voice beyond "average" Bible-believing Christians? Again, have they proved
any sufficient track record for being discerning to the point of credibility
yet? If these people are hearing from God so frequently and accurately,
then why all the unbiblical and dangerous teachings and alliances within
these groups? Surely God would speak loud and clear to John's mother about
her recent appearances with and endorsements of America's most radical
false teacher and prophet, Benny Hinn! I ask along with YWAM's founder
"Was that really You, God?"
No, I'm afraid this story can't be trusted. Here's what really happened in chapter 6 of Taking Our Cities for God. Dawson and friends would have you and I believe that their faithfulness in prayer saved Los Angeles that day, and the logical question remains: "How could that "fact" of averted judgment EVER possibly be verified?"
Answer: "IT CAN'T"! This account relies merely on the testimony and impressions or "hunches" in the hearts of people who have adapted many strange teachings. There is no Biblical basis for L.A's demise in Dawson's timetable, and, let's not forget, IT NEVER HAPPENED! Are we to believe that Hayford, Dawson, and all these other people (from the same camp) heard accurately from God in 1984, when they have demonstrated to be so askew doctrinally in other major areas?
Quick question for any and all in this group: "Where were all of your special gifts, "ears to hear", prophetic warnings, and portents of disaster on September 11,2001?" This was a very real tragedy that should have mobilized and motivated this super group of prayer warriors to get together and avert that terrorist act of malice. Just wondering…
The truth is, we don't know if God was going to judge the city on that day and we never will. Dawson tries to add weight to his book by including this story and tries to make his other claims reliable. If he can get his readers to believe this really happened. Then he can win over hearts and minds to his alleged discernment and then establish this book as worthy reading. It appears that many have fallen for this tactic and unquestioningly receive these "straw men" erected to make Dawson an authority on Taking Cities for God. The verse that should've been applied to the above story in Chapter 6 was Romans 11:33b: "How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"
The final pages of Chapter 6 explain why A.F.I. has given the title "Tossed To and Fro…" tothe Review. Dawson rightly shares some facts about the explosive growth of our population and some of the effects on the church and missions. Sadly, not all developments are as good as they sound:
"This global unification of mission fields, especially among youth, represents a significant new development." (P. 63).
I rejoice that many people, old and young, are hitting the countries of the world for all-out mission ministry. I rejoice that the gospel is being preached in many parts of the world that have been unreached before. I rejoice to be a part of the work here in India, both equipping the church as well as trying to evangelize the lost in Mumbai. As critical as I seem of YWAM, I also rejoice over what God has done in the lives of many through their mission adventures in the past. However, caution must be taken in this rapidly expanding global missions force and certain aspects of these huge mission agencies are dangerous.
One unfortunate fruit of the "global unification of mission fields" that Dawson talks about is the increased ecumenical alliances that have emerged. Unions are made among churches and mission organizations that, many times, compromise the clear teachings of God's Word on evangelism, the Gospel, and spiritual warfare among other teachings. YWAM has been at the forefront of some of the ecumenical problems that come with embracing such a diverse group of missionaries.( Take for example, YWAM's partnership with the Roman Catholic Church via "Kerygma Teams": www.kerygmateams.org/index1002918659.html ).
By having no real doctrinal statement, doors and windows have been left wide open for a variety of unbiblical notions and extra-biblical revelations. (Hey, like this book, for example…). AFI hopes that the leaders of YWAM and other groups will begin to make some serious stands on some of the falsehood that is infiltrating today.
" If we don't have an awakening in this generation, more people will go to an eternity without Christ than in all the past generations put together."(P. 64).
This is a true statement, but I think we would differ as to the origin of the awakening that needs to come as well as the nature of it. In Dominionist theology, which is largely prevalent in these man-centered spiritual warfare tactics, the awakening that is coming will be the result of a church getting its act together and becoming a conquering, militant end-time army, compete with newly restored prophets and apostles and a host of intercessors receiving insight and revelation beyond the written Word of God. (Check out Orrel Steinkamp's article Spiritual Warfare Evangelism: How Did We Get Here? In AFI's Spiritual Warfare section for more on Dominionist teachings and Warfare). Taking Our Cities For God paved the way for some of what has happened in this vein in recent years.
A true awakening is a sovereign move of God and one of the characteristics of a Church becoming seriously obedient is a return to Biblical Truth and allegiance to the Word of God as delivered in the Scriptures. By obedience and submission to those precepts, the Spirit will move in and through the hearts and lives of men. As the Gospel is preached, many will believe. But look carefully at the above statement once more along with Dawson's next statement:
"If we don't have an awakening in this generation, more people will go to an eternity without Christ than in all the past generations put together. (True, but notice…). I CAN"T SEE GOD ALLOWING THAT TO HAPPEN" (emphasis A.F.I.). (P.64).
I have real concerns with that assertion. Dawson needs to consider that more people have gone to Hell in the past because of a clear fact that Jesus tells us in Matt. 7:13,14 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
Here's the mind-blower and one not so easy to take: God has allowed that to happen. God has allowed human beings to choose their destiny to a certain extent (and we wont debate or discuss the extent of the extent in this article). God is entitled to allow whatever outcome He has willed and has a program that is not necessarily carried out in the way we think it should or would do ourselves. Our disagreement with how God does things or our opinion on what God should or should not allow is hampered by our sinful perceptions and our utter inability to know everything as He does.
Whatever the outcome of all things, He will be glorified in the end.
One key passage to keep in mind is Romans 8:19,20: "For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope…"
In some way, God subjected Creation to the curse. Why? Because the outcome would glorify Him. God allows all kinds of things to occur and take place in our lives as well as the lives of others because He alone knows the End from the Beginning (Isaiah 46:8-10). God allows the multitudes of people to choose where they will spend eternity, yet He knows most will choose Hell. "…There are few who find it." I must trust God's judgments, however unfathomable or even "unfair" they may seem to me. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord." (Isaiah 55:8). We must leave it to Him and say heartily "God, You allow WHATEVER You will to happen. I must trust regardless…"
Dawson draws chapter 6 to a close by mentioning some features of a movement that was just beginning at the time Taking Our Cities For God was written. Building on the global explosion premise, he turns his eyes toward the future of the Church with some predictions that proved accurate. Dawson is not a biblical prophet, he merely saw the roots of today's Third Wave Movement and wrote the probable outcome:
"I believe that strong leadership will be provided by Korean, Black and American Indian Christians and that prophets and evangelists will emerge who are of junior high school age or younger…"(P. 66).
Today, as then, YWAM and The New Apostolic Reformation are focusing on the emerging leaders from the First Nations Movement, and many church growth "experts" cite African and Korean churches as among the exploding congregations in the world today (Beware the First Nations Movement: www.deceptioninthechurch.com/lehmann2.html ).
Big problem: Many teachers and teachings coming from these groups have drifted further and farther away from God's Word. Many rely heavily on false prophecies and strange visions for their guidance and planning for ministry. (Go to AFI's New Prophet/Apostles and "Third Wave Warning" articles for more info on these growing movements and their teachings.). If Dawson saw anything for the Churches future, it was that his version of discernment would be embraced as well as that the implementation of his tactics in books like this would catch on worldwide.
I believe that the Bible "saw this coming" too. Again I rejoice that many people groups are hearing the Gospel and that the Gospel is being preached. I also rejoice that there are many strong leaders being raised up among some churches today, but I weep at the tolerance for false teachings, false prophecies and phony signs and wonders that exist in so many churches. The Bible said that apostasy would come (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and I believe we are in it as we watch the church, mission groups and individuals turn away from the scriptures and " be turned aside to fables" (2 Tim. 4:4) and listen to "deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons"(1 Tim.4: 1).
Quick question for Mr. Dawson: " Concerning the young prophets beginning ministry in childhood, how mature will these little ones be to lead churches and other youngsters by their prophetic words, especially since most adults who claim prophetic gifting today can't prophesy correctly?" Imagine an unprecedented move of God in which kids are raised up as prophets and evangelists. Do we need immaturity of that magnitude in public ministry today? This should be a grave concern in today's Church.
Yes, although Dawson would not put it this way, I believe he saw a time in the church that was coming where we would go through a decline in discernment and open our doors to much error and strangeness coming from the Third Wave camp. He and others involved in the roots of this movement don't need true prophetic eyes to see that many would swallow this stuff. They themselves advance and believe these same teachings.
I'll end Chapter 6, as well as Part 1 of the review of Taking Our Cities For God by John Dawson by citing one more revealing statement from the author. I think it accurately summarizes where he wants to take our cities as well as any reader who will buy a ticket for his ride:
"Revival will hammer into our religious pride and complacency. For that reason, the religious establishment will be tempted to resist the wind of God's Spirit and to criticize those involved." (P.66-67).
Well, there it is! Like most others in the Third Wave, Revival is the goal of the end times restoration and reformation. All the streams flow into the great "River" of Revival that God has revealed to those who hear His voice clearly above the rattling pages of Scripture.
If the "wind of the Spirit" that Dawson refers to here is what is known today as the Third Wave Movement, Then count me as part of the "religious establishment"! We need men and women who will be Watchmen in the Church today. We need to be critical of this movement because of the proven track record of error and false teaching that comes from it. It invites Biblical criticism. By that term I am advocating the thorough testing of these teachings and "winds of doctrine" using the Bible as our standard and guide.
Sadly, many areas of Dawson's, Wagner's, and certain leaders in YWAM's theology veer away from sound Biblical Truth, and subsequently, they themselves qualify for the position of the false teachers that God warned us about. Discernment is badly needed so Christians wont mindlessly swallow some of the things in Taking Our Cities For God or other such publications.
Those who believe and teach these things today resemble someone "tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14) rather than men and women being led by the true guidance of the Holy Spirit as He illumines God's Word as delivered to us in the Bible.
This ends Part 1 of the review of John Dawson's Taking Our Cities For God.
Go to Part 2