The article below was originally published January 26, 2015 and was recently brought to our attention by a longtime supporter of Mike Williams Ministries and the Gospel Revolution. The author’s name is Jim Richards and he published it on his website impactministries.com.
Years ago, Jim Richards traveled with Mike Williams through Canada speaking at several churches and convention halls. Mike has also given many seminars at Jim’s church in Huntsville, Alabama. Jim also awarded Mike with a “Doctorate in the Gospel of Peace” from his Bible school. As Mike continued studying and teaching the gospel and grace, Jim was having a hard time going along with the direction Mike was going in and eventually parted ways.
Jim wrote the article below in an attempt to discredit Mike and specifically the gospel he preaches. This is not Jim’s first attempt to discredit Mike. Several years ago, he recorded a video with a Florida pastor in which they both attempted to discredit Mike and, as in this article, distort the gospel. In the video, they mentioned Mike by name, but in the article below Jim is very clear in describing who this “Imposter” is by referencing their former relationship, which can only be Mike Williams. Yet, in the article below, Jim doesn’t mention Mike by name and even uses a blank underline “_____” when referring to Mike.
We will address the arguments Jim attempts to make in this article as we see fit in the coming weeks, but we also decided to let our audience read what this man is saying about Mike, us and the gospel. We are actually encouraged by his anxious urgency to rally his allies to stop the gospel in its tracks because, as he himself warns the reader, it is a dire emergency that they do.
The Grace Imposter
I am writing this to leaders because I believe the Church in America and around the world is at a serious crossroads. What began as slight deviations from sound doctrine has now become a deluge of devastating heresy, splitting and destroying churches and leading people away from a healthy relationship with Jesus as Lord! This letter is quite lengthy, but as a leader and theologian I feel you need as much information as possible to draw your own conclusions. The life of your church or ministry may be at stake, so please read this prayerfully!
It is not just the preachers of this error that are creating such massive destruction; it is the unwitting acceptance and promotion of this deceptive message by good pastors that will do the greatest damage. In an attempt to be open and allow their people freedom pastors are unintentionally allowing the leaven into their church that has already destroyed hundreds of churches and thousands of lives in America alone!
Very unintentionally the Church is departing from God’s Word as its Source for understanding and interpreting truth. The biblical definitions of love, sound doctrine, and righteousness are being replaced with subjective, philosophical, cult-based definitions and concepts. Ministers are unintentionally failing their congregations by allowing these subtle yet devastating heresies to ‘trickle’ into their congregations, which will become a destructive flood if left unchecked. I am convinced that most pastors are completely unaware of the ultimate consequence for their church as an organization and in the individual lives of their congregation. But I am writing this because I do believe you care about the flock wherein God has placed you!
As many of you know I was one of three men who pretty much pioneered the grace message in America in the 1980’s. My bestselling book Grace: The Power to Change was published by Impact Ministries in the late 1980’s and was republished by Whitaker House in 1993. It is a book designed to teach people that by God’s grace we overcome sin and are empowered to live in righteousness by God’s power. Of the three of us preaching grace in America I was the only one at the time who was presenting this message internationally. I am not saying we three were the only ones preaching grace, I am saying we were the only ones at the time presenting it on a national and international platform. Andrew Womack, another man, and I were the national pioneers of this message in the 80’s & 90’s. Andrew Womack has continued to present a biblically-sound message of grace that truly empowers the believer to live a faith-filled life of godliness while avoiding the trappings of legalism. He is touching and blessing millions. But sadly, one of the early pioneers had a major role in the destruction that is happening today. Because I saw this devastation more than 20 years ago I know how this is going to end!
The third brother who was powerfully preaching a doctrinally-sound message of grace in the beginning slowly began to adjust his message to match his compromised lifestyle. It began with ‘shock statements.’ These ‘shock statements’ (as I call them) are open-ended statements that were not completely theologically wrong, but if not explained left the listener to draw very destructive conclusions about church, godliness, and the effects of sin. They tended to lead to the questioning of other fundamental New Covenant truths.
These statements tended to emphasize what we don’t have to do as Christians. Instead of being an encouragement to follow God this attitude left struggling, codependent believers with an excuse for a compromised life and a victim’s mentality. But even more shocking was the way it fueled defiance and anger toward the Church. Instead of showing people how to have a healthy Church relationship it magnified all that was wrong with the Church. I have no problem with someone pointing out problems as long as they point people to healthy, biblical solutions. In the end the overwhelming feeling among those who heard the Grace Imposter message was this: “Anything I do for God is dead works; I don’t need church, sin is not a problem and has no consequences. “
Please understand, shock statements are not bad if they are used to get the attention of the listener and then qualified by presenting the truth. But when shock statements are made and just left with no truth to bring them into perspective they will always lead the weak, vulnerable, and struggling to reach the wrong conclusions. You never see this type of teaching with Jesus or any of the apostles. The emphasis was always how to live a godly life empowered by God’s grace. The Bible presents grace as the power to overcome sin, not the power to get by with sin.
Over time many people came to me after our meetings and said something like, “When I hear you preach grace I am inspired to live a godly life and believe I can. But when I hear _____ preach grace I want to throw up my hands and go out and get into sin again. What’s the difference in your messages? It sounds like you are almost saying the same things, but I am affected very differently when I hear him preach!” And that’s the problem with the Grace Imposter; it has just enough truth to make it believable to those who are not grounded in the Word of God.
When I asked my fellow minister about his statements he always blamed it on the people. He claimed he had no control over what they did with his message. I could never get him to accept that he may not have control over them, but he does have control to preach a responsible message, and if the majority understands it a certain way then the one presenting the message is the common denominator. I have had this same conversation with dozens of ministers who are following this same pattern today! We must be responsible ministers of the gospel but he, like many preaching an imposter of grace today, tend to lay blame on the hearts of the people. This, like their entire message, is a half-truth, and when misapplied makes it possible for the teacher to never assume responsibility for what is taught! When asked out right about their theological positions one never seems to get an answer that is consistent with their shock statements.
Eventually, though I deeply loved this man I had to follow the biblical admonition to have nothing to do with him! I was never against him personally and I’m not against him to this day, but I am very much against his message and the effects it has had on the listeners. Please understand; this is where it gets hard for all of us. These people are usually our friends or someone who may have ministered to us in the past. Personally, in my attempts to help him I stayed connected with him too long. My association with him caused others to be destroyed by his doctrine because they thought my involvement was an endorsement of his message.
When I finally pulled away he poured out his fury on me, trying to make me look like a legalist. But this is what these extremists do with anyone who questions or challenges their doctrine. They create what is known as a ‘straw man.’ When we no longer conducted meetings together and as he maligned my name pastors called me and wanted to know why we no longer worked together. Without attacking him I explained our theological differences. However, because of his popularity and his ability to draw a crowd they continued to have him speak in their churches. They found ways to justify his shock statements even though they grew more and more extreme. Then it seemed to reach a tipping point! Seemingly overnight there was an avalanche of destruction that began and is reemerging this very day!
For a period of a year or longer I received at least one desperate phone call a week from a pastor whose church split and who often had to shut down his/her church as a result of this man’s influence on their people. It seemed everyone who had any codependent tendency stopped attending and supporting their church and lavishly supported the man with the ‘new message.’ Suddenly, he was coming to their city and conducting private meetings with members of the churches that had previously hosted him. Those people began to see their pastor as a controlling legalist and terminated their involvement with church. I watched healthy churches fall into total disruption. Many of these were the very pastors that, when they previously asked, I warned about the unforeseeable devastation this doctrine would cause. When I warned them, instead of searching the Scriptures they tended to find fault with me. In time the number of calls decreased but, the truth is, we received calls like this for years.
No one would believe what started as a few shock statements from the pulpit would end up with churches collapsing, believers rejecting the authority of God’s Word, Christians rejecting the teaching of Jesus, and lives collapsing in sin. But this is exactly what Jesus and Paul warned would happen when we allowed the corruption of leaven to grow in our midst! Remember leaven isn’t restricted to legalism; it is any influence that undermines and disempowers.
It was so heartbreaking to watch helplessly as good churches collapsed and men and women who had been in the ministry for years left the ministry disillusioned, heartbroken, and financially ruined. However, the greatest sorrow was not the churches that failed, it was the lives that failed. Church members began getting divorces, using drugs, diving into homosexuality, and even denying Christ. You name it – it was happening! And sadly, all of this could have been avoided if pastors had been responsible under-shepherds and guarded the flock (1 Pet. 5:2).
Those who preach this Grace Imposter message claim that a pastor’s biblical responsibility to guard the flock is a legalistic action of control. Be assured, I am not talking about controlling your people; I am talking about no longer facilitating the exposure of your people to a message that is biblically-unsound and historically ALWAYS leads to destruction. I am not saying tell them what to do or who to listen to, but I am saying teach them the difference and, by all means, do not allow these wolves in sheep’s clothing access to your people through your pulpit, you social media, or your mailing list.
The sad truth is these pastors were good men and women but the allure of drawing crowds, the inability to withstand some disfavor, the humanistic attempt to be fair and open-minded, or the need to be accepted by someone they idolized seduced them into an unintended conspiracy of compromise that destroyed their flock and their ministry. And then there is ego. Pastors who have preached some of these very extremes or hinted at them in their messages will have to swallow their pride and lovingly lead their people in a healthier direction. If you make it to the end of this letter I’ll offer some positive suggestions to ending this erosion of truth in your congregation.
All of that happened nearly 25 years ago and now I’m seeing it all happen again, but this time on a much larger, more devastating scale! Today’s technology has allowed these teachers of error all kinds of new ways to influence your people. With the proliferation of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms it is so easy for anyone to reach your people, but you do not have to be ignorantly complicit in their attempts! Guard your social media outlets and use wisdom about who you allow to post on your pages. It takes diligence and persistence to be responsible for what gets to your people through you, but it is a responsibility we must accept if we invite our people to follow us on social media. Who we allow to post on our social media outlets is no different than allowing them to preach in our pulpits. Remember, this is not about controlling people; this is about determining who you will allow to use your influence to speak to your people.
The message of Inclusion, Universalism, Trinitarianism, Ultimate Reconciliation, and other similar doctrines of destruction are being proclaimed under the banner of grace! But it bears repeating, the most shocking thing is pastors and leaders are once again complicit in this conspiracy of heresy by their refusal to take a godly stand! I am not suggesting we attack people, but when we see the warning signs in those who claim they have a revelation of grace, we should never expose them to our people through any means that would allow them to use our influence to speak to them! This is not meanness or judgment; it is obedience to the teaching of our Lord Jesus and the apostles.
The problem comes in the fact that when you ask these teachers if they believe in Inclusion, Universalism, Trinitarianism, or these other heresies they will nearly always deny it. But when they preach or make posts on Facebook they will continue to make questionable statements that sound distinctively like these doctrinal errors. They will make Facebook posts that seem to promote irresponsible living or a lackadaisical life with God! Then you’ll notice they are quoting and pointing people directly to the writings of those who are clearly teaching heresy. What’s worse is they promote the books and meetings or even participate in meetings with those who embrace these doctrines of destruction… all of which equates an endorsement by them and by you if it is on your social media page.
Keep in mind if they come out and publicly reveal their beliefs they will no longer have a ministry or a following among biblical-believing churches and pastors. These teachers tend to be notorious for not having their own following but instead creep in as wolves in sheep’s clothing and get the ear of your following, your congregation, the ministry you have spent your life building! Then they may even show up in your city having private meetings with members of your congregation. If you question or challenge them at all there will be a war waged against you as a controlling legalist!
You’ll notice they don’t emphasize the truth that grace makes you able to live a more godly life (Rom. 6:14), be more effective in ministry (1 Cor. 15:10), or display all the other healthy fruits of the spirit and good works that should come from hearing and believing the true message of grace (Col. 1:6). Instead, they emphasize what you don’t have to do. You don’t have to pray, you don’t have to read your Bible, you don’t have to repent, you don’t have to go to church, and of course, you don’t have to give. The listener becomes paralyzed; they think anything they do is dead works and makes them a legalist.
It always amazes me how they slaughter a local pastor for receiving tithes or an offering, yet they gladly take what was formerly given to your church and use it for their purposes. They have no respect for the children, teens, elderly, and other areas of ministry that cost money. They make you look like a money-hungry thief; but they gladly receive gifts that provide nothing for the giver other than a sermon.
Doctrinally they often have enough tidbits of information to make people question your ministry. However, while some of these things may be true, they are not truth. Truth is when the Word is applied the way God intended. When we walk in love and are empowered by grace we will do what we do because it is our desire. Grace and faith righteousness don’t stop us from doing godly things; they merely empower us to do them for godly, healthy reasons.
If your people are being exposed to these elements before long you will begin to have dissention in your congregation. Some people just leave but others stay and cause trouble! They feel it is their obligation to set your congregations free with their new revelation of grace. You start seeing negative changes in many areas. This is the fruit of their ministry. Your people discover a false sense of freedom which translates into: stop serving, stop giving, and stop doing anything that supports the local church… the church that is providing ministry to their entire family. They feel no need to live productive lives and eventually they have no need for church. And sadly, many will eventually reject their need for a personal faith in Jesus! I have seen it more times than you can imagine! Today it is happening in massive numbers around the globe!
Do not be dismayed. You can stop this tide of destruction. I will share a few ways you can identify those who are heading in a destructive direction. This will help you identify what I have seen to be some of the top doctrinal indicators of where a person is going in his or her doctrine. It is, however, important to remember the problem is not the grace message. The grace of God presented in the New Covenant makes one able to conquer sin, serve abundantly, be more generous, live in true righteousness, fulfill their call to the ministry, and every other aspect of godly living! Should you blame these problems on grace you will make the most fatal of mistakes. You will find yourself preaching against an essential New Covenant truth when, in fact, it is the only thing that makes us able to live this life. Secondly, you will then make it easy for your enemies to attack you. You will drive people out of your church straight into the arms of destruction! New Covenant grace is not the problem; The Grace Imposter is the problem. Heresy disguised under the doctrine of grace is your enemy. The grace message is not your enemy and the people preaching the Grace Imposter are not your enemies!
Following are what I believe to be doctrinal tendencies that form the early warning for detecting those who are headed toward error. If you see these doctrines please be kind and walk in love, but stop exposing these teachers to your congregation. If you have begun to buy into and preach these doctrines yourself I will provide some free ministry tools to help you understand the root of these doctrines and how they will play a role in disempowering the Church while ushering in the antichrist! I have seen how this ends! I know that isn’t what you want! Please prayerfully consider where you stand on these doctrinal issues and on your need to protect your congregation!
- Any teaching that twists or distorts the true meaning, definition, and intention of grace will always tend toward these mystical, compromising extremes. Here are important factors we should know about grace:
- Grace is the power to overcome sin (Rom. 6:14) and live our true identity in Jesus (1 Cor. 15:10).
- Grace is not mercy. The moment we