Thousands gathered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this weekend for a large-scale prayer event called America for Jesus. While some openly welcomed the gathering, others expressed concern over the apostasy of a number of the scheduled speakers.
As previously reported, America for Jesus is led by megachurch speaker and author Anne Gimenez of Rock Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Gimenez, who preached several times during this year’s event, was ordained at the age of 19 and began preaching throughout the South. Following the passing of her husband John in 2008, Gimenez took over the leadership position at Rock Church. She later wrote a book called Born to Preach, with the foreward written by Pat Robertson of The 700 Club.
“I no longer struggle as I did in the past to be accepted as a woman in ministry. I no longer wonder whether I’ll be asked back to preach,” Gimenez wrote in a biography on her website. “I’m free now to minister and do the will of God – going where He wants me to go.”
Gimenez and her husband began hosting America for Jesus rallies in 1980, organizing gatherings in various parts of the country. Her son-in-law, John Blanchard, who coordinated this year’s event in Philadelphia, has been involved since 1996.
“What we feel is God telling us to organize a prayer gathering,” Blanchard told Christian News Network last month. “America is headed in the wrong direction. … We believe that the economic downturn and the moral depravity that is going on can be tied to turning our back on God as a nation.”
He stated that while the event is not politically-motivated, it centers on “asking God to forgive the Church for the sins of the Church.”
“We’re praying for a revival, and we’re praying for an awakening in America,” he stated.
America for Jesus featured a number of well-known speakers, such as Pat Robertson of The 700 Club, Lou Engle of The Call, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council, Cindy Jacobs of Generals International, Rick Scarborough of Vision America, Robert Stearns of Eagle’s Wings, Rick Joyner of Morningstar International, Rabbi Jonathan Cahn of Hope of the World Ministries, Chuck Pierce of Glory of Zion International and many others. Local guests included Pennsylvania Senator Stuart Greenleaf and Philadelphia Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin.
In addition to live messages, video prayers and commentary were broadcasted from Joel Osteen and Billy Graham. Music was also performed by a number of bands, choirs and soloists, including Rick Pino, Sean Feucht and Ricardo Sanchez.
During the week, Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding, California, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets, Harry Jackson, Doug Stringer and others spearheaded an event that it is a part of the effort, called Awake Now. The meeting was held at Living Faith Christian Center in Pennsauken, New Jersey.
However, many have expressed concerns over the gatherings, both spiritually and politically.
“[T]he sickening reality is more and more so-called Christians are so enamored by well-known preachers that they are choosing to close their eyes as the blood of Jesus is trampled upon and the Spirit of grace is insulted, rather than have the reputation of their beloved men of God tarnished in any way,” stated Tom Tomasella of Safeguard Your Soul.
Many of the speakers that were scheduled to address the crowds at America for Jesus and its surrounding events raised concern because of the beliefs that they espouse and teach. Bill Johnson, who was at the forefront of Awake Now conference, adheres to the doctrine that Jesus went to Hell as a sinner.
“Did you know Jesus became a sinner for us and had to be born again?” Bill Johnson is quoted as saying in an online video. “I asked … the first service and they said ‘no.’ But I will show it. It’s in the Bible. He had to be. He became sin.”
Similarly, many have decried Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Robert Stearns and others as being false prophets.
Jacobs has asserted that a large signs and wonders movement is coming to the nations.
“Part of the fruit of this movement will be healing centers, which will be built around the world, devoted to praying for the sick and casting out demons,” she stated. “One of the distinctive [aspects] of this movement will be raising the dead.”
Jacobs also claims that one of her staff members was personally visited by the angel Gabriel, who explained why her ministry was experiencing financial difficulty. She said that Gabriel replied that there were “four vortexes of demons” that had been assigned by the Devil to hold funds back from her.
Rick Joyner, who spoke on Saturday, serves as the spiritual adviser to Todd Bentley, a famed “faith healer” who is known for his claims that God told him to kick sick people in the face. Bentley stepped down from his “revival” meetings for a time, and re-emerged with a new wife — the young nanny that took care of his children.
Many have also dubbed Joyner a Gnostic and have denounced his book The Final Quest, in which he wrote that he had a vision where he spoke to a dead man that was released from Hell after repenting.
“All of my sins and follies which I had not repented of passed before me, and before all who are here. The grief of this you cannot understand until you have experienced it. I felt that I was in the deepest dungeon of Hell,” the book states. “[Jesus] was resolute until my life had been completely reviewed. When I said I was sorry and asked for the mercy of His cross, He wiped away my tears and took away the great darkness.”
Therefore, while thousands flocked to participate in this weekend’s America for Jesus event, others stood outside of the gathering to urge Christians to not yoke together with false teachers.
The evangelistic ministries Repent America and Cross Country Evangelism were among those preaching against apostasy at the event.
“While I can appreciate the call to repentance and fasting, from its very organization of being led by a woman bishop, the event was out of order,” Michael Marcavage, director of the Philadelphia-based evangelistic organization Repent America, stated. “Although the prayer gathering was designed to be a desperate cry for God to save America, it is absurd for anyone to expect God to bless an event where a number of false teachers were given the pulpit. The Bible says that judgment begins with the house of God, and we can’t just excuse or overlook apostasy.”
Marcavage stood with various Scripture signs, including one that cited 2 Timothy 4:3, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.”
“Most were unwilling to listen to any warning, exhortation or correction and became very angry and defensive. They told us that as long as someone believes in Jesus, it’s okay to come together, but even the devils believe and tremble,” Marcavage explained. “There was a great lack of discernment and a complete disregard of Scripture by many of those we spoke with,” he added. “I think that many people who attended the event genuinely desire change and revival in our nation, but are being misled by false teachings and not seeking out truth in the Scriptures themselves.”
Marcus Diaz from Irvington, New Jersey, erected a prayer stand at America for Jesus and spoke with a number of attendees as well.
“I prayed with so many people there who had a false gospel. It was saddening and joyous at the same time,” he said. “It was a blessing and so refreshing to have Biblical preaching behind us to as we witnessed to false converts and encouraged true believers in Christ at the prayer stand, praying with everyone when they came to know the real, everlasting Gospel, the one that no rust or moth can devour.”
America for … Obama or Romney?
As Family Research Council’s Values Voter bus pulled into the event to distribute voter guides and discreetly influence attendees to vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Marcavage said that he had numerous conversations with attendees about how they will cast their ballot this November. Many of those attending America for Jesus, like Family Research Council and a number of the featured speakers, were supportive of Romney.
“Many people were in fear of Obama, and stated that they would be voting for ‘the lesser of two evils,’ while one person even told me that because Romney believes in ‘a god,’ he got her vote,” Marcavage said. “Therefore, I explained to them about what it means to vote Biblically and outlined that the guidelines for choosing rulers are not based upon man’s subjective opinions, but rather on an absolute standard given by Divine authority. Exodus 18:21 tell us that we are to choose men who fear God and are men of truth.”
Pat Necerato of VoteBiblical.com joined Marcavage and others to reach out to attendees Friday night.
“A nation’s leader is a reflection of the heart of its people,” Necerato stated. “There cannot be public virtue without private virtue. It is every person’s duty to stand up for God in politics and never compromise the word of God as the only standard in every area of life.”
At one point, as Pat Robertson was speaking on stage, Rives Grogan, pastor of New Beginnings Christian Church in Los Angeles, held up a sign that contained images of aborted babies, and yelled, “Obama is sin! Support Mitt Romney!”
“Shut your mouth,” Robertson replied, a Romney supporter, adding, “This is not political.”
Similarly, Tony Perkins of Family Research Council told the audience that he was not at America for Jesus for political purposes, although his values voter bus was present to distribute voter guides to attendees. Perkins has also publicly endorsed Romney.
Anne Gimenez, who founded the event, outlined that she does not limit her voting practices to Christians.
“I have no boundaries or limitations on that,” she told The Washington Post, but added that she would like someone that “fears God.”
Speaker Rick Scarborough of Vision America and organizer of the ecumenical joint prayer effort “40 Days to Save America,” agreed. As previously reported, while Scarborough believes that Mitt Romney’s “track record is suspect,” including his views on homosexuality and abortion, he feels that he must vote for the Mormon candidate anyway.
“We live in a two party system,” he stated. “Jesus has never run for office, so every election is the lesser of two evils.”
However, Marcavage contended that such reasoning is not Biblical.
“In the words of Charles Spurgeon, ‘Of two evils, choose neither,'” Marcavage said. “Christians must turn from the endless cycle of voting for the lesser of evils and expecting an unrighteous act to produce a righteous result. From a communist to a cultist, choosing the lesser of evils is still evil, and never should we do evil that good may come.”
“If Christians continue sinning with their votes and working to elect those who do not fear God, then our nation will continue to suffer His judgments,” he added. “The Scripture clearly warns, ‘Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.’ We must not vote in the fear of man, but in the fear of God, and trust in His sovereignty.”
The event concluded Saturday night at Independence Hall in Philadelphia.