Saturday, May 17, 2014

Life Changers Church International and Pastor Gregory Dickow


Gregory Dickow

Gregory Dickow was born on September 18, 1964, in Detroit, Michigan. He was reared in a non-religious middle-class family. After having lost a friend to suicide, Dickow began a search for meaning and fulfillment in his life.[1] Initially, Dickow attempted to utilize drugs and alcohol as a means of fulfillment. However, after having become addicted,[2] he discovered that drug and alcohol abuse provided a feeling of emptiness.[3] At the age of 17, Dickow was invited to attend a bible study, and during that meeting, Dickow became a Christian.[4][5]
Thereafter, Dickow “began answering the call of God on his life by attending Western Michigan University with the express purpose of evangelizing the lost.”[6] He earned a baccalaureate degree in Public Relations, and claims to have spent his summers “on the mission fields of Asia, making disciples and training leaders.”[7] Dickow claims to have established an on-campus church during his time at Western Michigan University.[8]
In December of 1988, Dickow married Mary Grace Gattone. In 1993 Gregory and Grace Dickow planted Life Changers Church International in Elk Grove, IL. While LCCI began in a school gymnasium, it now has a membership of approximately 3000, operates and a K-12 school, and is headquartered in a 30 million dollar facility in Hoffman Estates, IL. Pastor Dickow also operates a national television ministry in which his program is broadcast six days a week on four different networks, reaching “over 900 million households weekly.”[9]
LCCI is a non-denominational church that fits within the broad spectrum of Pentecostal Evangelicalism. There is much to appreciate in the statement of faith provided on the LCCI website.[10] However, the church has some distinctive teachings which are unbiblical and extremely problematic. Like many teachers that affirm biblical Christianity in their literature, in practice Pastor Dickow’s teachings distort the gospel, the biblical model for Christian living, and the bible’s teaching on faith.

The Bible’s Teaching on the Gospel and the Christian Life
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, the Apostle Paul explicitly identified that the gospel as the message “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Paul stated that the gospel is the “Power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Moreover, Jesus and his Apostles taught that while those who believe in him have eternal life (John 5:24), the life of the believer is one which is marked by trials (Jas. 1:2), suffering (1 Pet. 2:21), and tribulation (John 16:33). Scripture states quite clearly that, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

What Does Pastor Dickow Teach?
Like many popular televangelists, Dickow teaches the prosperity gospel;[11] a teaching wherein its adherents don’t merely receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life purchased by the work of Christ, but also a life of good health, financial prosperity, and relational well-being.
Dickow teaches that because God has entered into a covenant with Christians, Christians then have “the right to place a demand on that covenant.”[12]  On Dickow’s view, Christians need to take the initiative and place a demand upon God for the various benefits of this covenant. Dickow claims that when Jesus went to the cross, he purchased freedom for Christians from the curses of financial lack, emotional problems, family problems, sickness and disease, terrorism, fear, and failure and defeat.[13] Thus, by virtue of God’s covenant, Christians have a right to freedom from these curses. Even more, Dickow has stated that,

He became poor on the cross that we through his poverty might be made rich. So, when I am lacking something in my life, I take up the cross daily and I say, today I take up the cross I declare…that I have what I need,  I declare that sickness is finished, that depression is finished, that sickness is finished, that need is finished…[14]

To Dickow, intrinsic to the work of Christ upon the cross is the promise of complete prosperity, financial or otherwise in the here and now.
Dickow’s claims are not only the opposite of what Scripture teaches regarding the work of Christ. His claims mislead people into thinking that Christianity is a cure-all for the troubles of this world. The Apostle Paul taught that Christians ought to expect affliction in this world and that through enduring suffering, Christians receive character and hope (Rom. 5:3-4). In fact, if one were to compare the paradigm of Christian living being taught at LCCI with the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul, one would have to conclude that Paul was a colossal failure. Rather than declaring that “No curse of sickness and disease can dwell in my body or in my life,”[15] Paul sought for healing and was told by God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The Apostle’s life was marked by many trials and sufferings, and it was in his weakness God’s power was demonstrated. Similarly, Paul told Timothy to drink wine “for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” (1 Tim. 5:23). If it is God’s will to heal all the time, then why didn’t Paul tell Timothy to speak healing? So too, Paul left Trophimus in Miletus because he was “ill” (2 Tim. 4:20). If Dickow is correct, why didn’t Paul just heal him and move on? Paul said Epaphroditus was “was ill, near to death,” and God had mercy on him (Phil. 2:27). Paul’s language suggests that his healing was an exceptional act of God and not a guarantee given in the atonement in the here and now. 

Like the mind-science cults (e.g., Unity, Christian Science), Dickow affirms a Christianized version of the so-called “law of attraction.” He has taught that the means unto affecting the aforementioned benefits is by engaging positive thinking and confession. That is, one must speak and think positively to enact the work of Christ. Conversely, bad experiences are brought on either by the seeds we sow (i.e., negative confession, thoughts, etc.) or that of others around us.[16] Dickow stated, “Use your words to direct the outcome of your life.”[17] Dickow has effectively revoked the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and placed mankind firmly in control of his own circumstances. In order to obtain the blessings of God, Dickow claims that Christians must literally speak blessings to one’s circumstances.[18] Dickow wrote, “God has given us the power and responsibility to manage our own lives…to determine our futures by the seeds we sow.”[19] On Dickow’s view, you are responsible for your circumstances, whether good or bad. Meanwhile, the bible teaches that while man is responsible for his actions, it is God who is sovereign, and it is he who ordains whatsoever comes to pass (Lam.3:37; Prov. 16:9; Eph. 1:11).

Further, Dickow teaches that if a Christian is in need, the correct response is to give God a seed gift “to get God involved in your situation.” [20] According to Dickow one of the primary ways to “reverse the curse” of original sin is to “give a sacrificial gift to God.” [21] Thus, Dickow has created a gospel wherein the work of Christ is not effective until one gives God a gift. By contrast, God according to his own will has “blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:3).

In addition to his unbiblical gospel and view of Christ’s atoning work, Dickow also adheres to a give-to-get scheme. Dickow wrote,

There are very few pressures or points of contention in our lives worse than financial pressure and financial lack…God never intended for you to live this way. Jesus said in John 10:10, ‘The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.’ You see God is a God of abundance. His name is El Shaddai, which translated means ‘The God of MORE THAN ENOUGH!’ Though the world may have a shortage, your company may have a shortage, your savings account may have a shortage, your checkbook may have a shortage—God never has a shortage![22]

Dickow went further to finish this teaching by telling his readers that to enact God’s abundance in their lives, they need to “Start by giving something away,” and to purchase his book and his “Financial Freedom Package.”[23]

Conclusion
In Summary, there are some things to praise in the ministry of Life Changers Church International and Pastor Dickow. However, there is also much to rebuke. Dickow teaches another gospel; a gospel that places its emphasis not on the Son of God, but rather on benefits never promised in Scripture. Dickow has an incorrect understanding of the sovereignty of God, and the role of man. Rather than teaching that God is working all things according to his will, Dickow teaches that “You are in charge! You are in control![24], Pastor Dickow does not meet the biblical qualifications for a pastor (Titus 1:9), and therefore he ought to be removed from church leadership. The members of Life Changers Church International need to embrace the biblical gospel of repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Christ, and they need to act like the Bereans who were “noble-minded” because before embracing Paul’s teaching, they tested it with the Scriptures to see if what they were being told was true (Acts 17:11). 


[1] http://www.cbn.com/tv/1416907341001, see segment 00:27-1:07.
[2] See http://store.gregorydickow.org/aboutus.asp, (Last accessed: 01/11/14).
[3] Ibid, see segment 1:12-1:39
[4] Ibid, see segment 1:40-3:25.
[5] Gregory Dickow, “Pastor Dickow’s Personal Confession,” Gregory Dickow (Blog), May 2006, http://gregorydickow.blogspot.com/2006/05/you-will-receive-power-to-be-changed.html, , (Last accessed 01/11/14).
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid. See also http://www.thepowertochangetoday.com/, (Last accessed: 01/11/14).
[8] Ibid.
[11] The prosperity gospel is the message espoused by those who affirm what is known as Positive Confession Theology, also known as the Word-Faith movement. The prosperity gospel is essentially the teaching that included within the work accomplished by Christ, Jesus secured a life of physical, relational, and fiscal blessing and prosperity. However, integral to this doctrine is the belief that these blessings can only be accessed by a verbal affirmation of their receipt prior to their actualization (i.e., a positive confession). See Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van Der Maas eds., The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charasmatic Movements, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 992-994.
[12] Gregory Dickow “Placing a Demand on the Covenant,” The Power to Change Today, Dec. 29, 2013, 6:50-7:09, http://www.itbn.org/index/detail/lib/programs/sublib/Gregory+Dickow/ec/J1czBiajpc8aS5F6htsZvF2Nx3swuRoT, (Last accessed: 01/11/14).
[14] Gregory Dickow, “Redeemed From The Curse: How To Live In Your Covenant Blessings!,” The Power to Change Today, Aug. 26, 2012, 10:30-11:05, http://www.itbn.org/index/detail/lib/Networks/sublib/TBN/ec/9nbzdxNTrFR5ewRkjoiPANn2DJEoF_lb, (Last accessed: 01/11/14).
[16] Gregory Dickow, The Power to Change Today: Simple Secrets to the Satisfied Life, (New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, 2009), 168.
[17] Ibid. Similarly, Dickow wrote: “The words of the Bible are described as the seeds that, when planted, will surely produce the satisfied life. You can truly be happy and confident, for your abundant future lies within your hands.” Ibid., 172. “Remember: you hold in your hands the power to live the life you desire by choosing the seeds you plant. No one can stop your harvest.” Ibid., 176.
[18] See Gregory Dickow, “The Power of Spoken Blessing,” The Power to Change Today, Nov. 13, 2011. Italics added.
[19] Dickow, The Power to Change Today, 169.
[23] Ibid.