The “Cruelty” of the Word of Faith Movement –

31 05 2009

Truth Matters Newsletter – August 2004 – Vol 8. Issue 8 – The “Cruelty” of the Word of Faith Movement – by Robert S. Liichow

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One of the spiritual truths that have been “restored” to me since being involved in this aspect of Christ’s ministry is the value of people, real people with needs, hurts, joys and wisdom. We are all members of one body and we all have equal value in the eyes of God and none of us is unimportant or unnecessary to the furthering of God’s will in the earth.

In this article I will focus on three aspects which are particularly cruel and abusive which are commonplace in the majority of congregations or ministries within this “movement.”

                            Lords and Not Leaders

Being set free from the miasma of spiritual bondage and heresy I now see very clearly how many times God’s people were (and are) viewed as merely a means to an end by various abusive leaders. I can attest to the fact that within the Word of Faith Movement (WOF) people are often treated as objects, as names without faces on a mailing list whose role is to further the ambitions of the leader of that specific ministry. One former restored “apostle” Ellis Smith stood up before the congregation one Sunday and declared “God doesn’t care about you, He cares about His purpose.”  The congregants were reduced to being pieces on a cosmic chessboard to be moved around according to the divine purpose as revealed to the apostle Smith.

Every WOF ministry and church is ultimately run by one individual. These men and women may carry various titles such as Apostle, Prophet, Pastor or Bishop and they are always at the top of the food-chain and everyone else is subservient to them. If he or she has a church they may have elders and even some deacons, but the ultimate decision maker is going to be the Pastor/Prophet/Apostle, etc.

scan2004fm0001Having served both as a teaching elder and pastor in a couple of WOF congregations I remember a visit we had from a so-called “prophet” who also served as a pastor over a very young college-age congregation. In an elders meeting, he told us the following: “whenever I meet with my elders whoever hears something different from God than what I’ve heard is wrong.”  (1) In other words, even though God had raised up individuals as elders in his local church his insights were the only ones of consequence.

The pastor within any WOF congregation is the supreme potentate. His role is to “hear” from God, cast the vision for the church and direct the people to bring it to pass. These pastors perfectly fit the warnings given through Jeremiah and Ezekiel to the shepherds of Israel in the Old Testament:

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. Jerm 23:1,2  (KJV)

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: [but] ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up [that which was] broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.  And they were scattered, because [there is] no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek [after them].   Exek. 34:2-6 (KJV)

Anyone reading this article with a WOF background knows from their own personal experience how many times people (God’s sheep) were driven out of a congregation because they questioned the pastor. Every WOF pastor is certainly numbered among the wealthiest in their congregation. These men and women literally take care of themselves and their families first and foremost. They sacrifice very little for the sake of their congregations.

In fact the same pastor/prophet told us in the same series of meetings he held at our former church that now since our pastor, Ellis Smith, had been elevated to the role of an “Apostle” we should not expect him to visit the sick in the hospital nor expect him to give people a lift to church who need a ride. His role from now on was simply to get into the Word and fast and pray (see Acts 6:4). Those mundane tasks were for the elders to handle and let the Apostle, do the serious spiritual work!

It was about at this same time, early 1990’s, that a new ministry was being “restored” back to the Church, that of the Armor Bearer. Books began to be published on this topic, and seminars given on how to enter into this exciting role. (2) Some of you reading this may have never heard of such a ministry and maybe some of you who are students of Church History may wonder when such a “ministry” existed within the Church. Allow me to give you a brief description of the role of the armor bearer, according to the blurb on Nance’s second book:

Basically, the theme of this book is to be content to be an faithful “behind the scenes” person, pay your dues, and in God’s time you will be promoted to increased visibility and responsibility. Nance uses the armor bearer analogy to make his point.   (3)

Regarding Nance’s book, Bishop T.D. Jakes says the following:

God’s Armor Bearer is an insightful book at a neglected ministry that needs desperately to be rekindled in the kingdom. I believe it is essential for every sincere Christian to read and apply. That is the reason that I purchased 5,000 of the books for use at our church. The Potter’s House. I would simply be afraid to command any troops into battle that had not read it. (4)

An armor bearer is the person who serves the needs of the pastor/leader. In our former church that included “guarding” the outside door to the pastors office and “vetting” anyone who wanted to inquire of the man-of-God. The armor bearer carried the pastor’s Bible before him as he entered the sanctuary, walked him off the platform (sort of like a body guard) so the people would not drain his anointing (I kid you not). Sometimes the armor bearer drove the pastor’s wife home pre-heated their car in the winter and ran the air conditioning for them in the summer.

Note that the quote states that one must “pay your dues.” In other words, do this menial task and faithfully serve the person of “God” and one day in Gods time you will get spiritually promoted and have someone else serve you.

Within charismatic extremism this role is a coveted one for several reasons. First,  The armor bearer has access to the “anointed” one and has the power to somewhat decide who can or cannot have an audience with the august personage. Secondly, the carrot on the stick is that one day enough of the godly ones anointing will rub off on you that you can launch out into your own ministry! You learn the tricks of the trade so to speak by serving as chauffer, coat holder, Bible bearer, etc…

However, there are problems with this “ministry.” First of all it is not found within the New Testament or the history of the Church. Armor bearers are mentioned briefly in the Old Testament and when it is spoken of it has no spiritual significance. More importantly it violates one of the main teachings of our Lord Jesus regarding leadership in the Church by elevating the slave to the position of being the absolute dictator:

“But Jesus called them [to him], and saith unto them Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you; but whosoever will be great among you shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. (Mark 10:42-45 KJV).

Jesus outlines very dynamically the foremost quality of a biblical leader–that of a servant. The world (Gentiles) exercise lordship over those they lead, “But so shall it not be among you.”  What we have in the WOF cult and other forms of charismatic extremist groups and ministries is exactly the opposite of the commandment given by Jesus. In all honest I cannot say I have ever met a genuine servant-leader while a part of the charismatic movement. Al the pastors/prophets/apostles either had an exalted view of themselves and/or their calling, When they got big enough incorporated “armor bearers” around them to shield them from having much real contact at all with those they say they minister to. For example, try to approach Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, or Fred Price either after a convention meeting or in their church and see how close you can get to these “servants” of Christ. I can assure you the pastors of large WOF congregations do not perform marriages, funerals, visit the sick in the hospitals, clean toilets or take out the trash. There is one exception to this statement; they will marry or bury someone who has been either a big giver (those who give the most always have access to the pastor, whereas others do not) or is a prominent member of the community.

The majority of WOF pastors rule their congregations by spiritual coercion i.e. they misinterpret biblical texts and by doing so place their people in spiritual bondage. (5) These ministers do not allow anyone to question their beliefs, teachings or even their lifestyles. My wife and I have heard countless sermons about the great danger inherent in touching God’s “anointed” after all 1 Ch. 16:22 says: “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” This was always interpreted to mean that no one was to ever question the doctrine or direction of our leader(s). We were often reminded of what happened to those who came against Moses. Anyone who was beneath the pastor had one role to fill—simply obey the leader without any questions and in the words of Kenneth Hagin Sr. we were told to “doubt our doubts.”

It has been a longstanding teaching within the WOF cult that as a pastor one cannot allow the sheep to get too close to you as a leader. Mark Barclay, one of the more controlling “Apostles” in Michigan has written many books on this topic including one we had to read titled; “Avoiding the Pitfalls of Familiarity.” So not only were future pastors taught not to allow their congregation to get too close to them as pastors, but the people are also taught not to fall into the sin of becoming too familiar with our pastor! The end result is an exalted view of the ministry of the pastor, a view that is unbiblical and one that lends itself to spiritual abuse. Never forget the old adage : “the best of men are men at best.”

Cruel Confessions

Probably one of the cruelest elements of any aberrant system is rooted in false doctrines. In the case of any charismatic extremist group, their scripture twisting deludes their followers into thinking they will be brought nearer to the Lord through their practice, when in reality the practitioner is carried further from the One whom they seek to know.

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  John 8:31-32 (KJV)

Just as continuing in the Word of the Lord (i.e. when it is properly taught and understood) proves that one is a disciple of Jesus and the Word rightly taught and understood liberated the one who hears and does the Word. The opposite is just as true. The Word of God taught incorrectly and then misapplied will place people in spiritual bondage, which is what happens to those enmeshed in the WOF cult.

In the cult we were taught that our words had the power to create or destroy, it was up to us. The condition a person was in whether it was financial, martial, physical was generally brought back to their negative words or if things were going well, then to their faith-filled words.

On a pastoral level I could never be sure where someone was in their spiritual walk because we had been programmed to confess only the positive promises found in the Bible. So when I’d ask someone “how are you doing my brother?” The scripted response would be something like “I’m blessed brother, God is good all the time and the devil is a liar!” In reality that individual may have been headed to bankruptcy or divorce court but they could not share this because it would somehow give power to the devil to transmute these negative words into reality.

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. Proverbs 6:2 (KJV) Peasant words [are as] an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones. Proverbs 16:24 (KJV).

See! Its right there in the Holy Bible—people are snared by their words and are even taken captive by the devil by their words. On the other had, pleasant words are sweet and can even provide health to our very bones.

WOF people are afraid to speak negative words, their efforts to speak only the positive desired result is really motivated by fear (which as we all know is the opposite of faith) of what will happen to them if they slip up. Can you see how just this one area of false doctrine (which is huge) places people into spiritual bondage? Also, the strain of denying reality by declaring a “greater” spiritual reality into existence is at its very core a doctrine of works and not of grace.

Congregational members do not have the freedom to speak openly and honestly with their pastor (because he will rebuke them, nor can they be honest with others around them (lest they seem less spiritual) and n the end many people end u on the spiritual junk heap due to the strain of being positive in the midst of their pain.

Our words (confession) will either put us over or put us under. Let’s quote Kenneth Copeland, the heir of the WOF throne since the death of Kenneth Hagin Sr.:

“When you discover who you are in Jesus, your entire existence—your health, your financial life your social life—will take on a new meaning. The storms of lie will be stopped a you exert pressure on them with the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you. You are to reign as a king under your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ of Nazareth! Hallelujah! God sees you this way. He expects you to take your rightful place and live this kind of life above the beggarly elements of the world… As a born-again child of God, you are to be a superman in the eyes of the world, holding forth the Word of Life! When you cross the rough spots, you won’t knuckle under—you will stand tall and triumph over-them. You will walk hand in hand with Jesus through the storms of life and come out victoriously!  (6)

Every person we knew, including ourselves, was striving to be exactly what Mr. Copeland described in the above passage. Every problem we faced was to be dealt a defeating blow as we boldly declared the promises of God in the power of the Spirit. We were working hard to reign in this life as literal kings! To do any less was to fall far short of our heavenly Father’s expectation for us. To be (or remain) poor or sick was displeasing to God. Nothing less than complete triumph over the storms of life was acceptable to God and our leaders.

Sadly, millions of professing Christians are on the treadmill of works, striving to attain “mastery” over all the beggarly elements of this fallen world through implementing the various sets of spiritual laws and principles taught by Copeland, Price, Duplantis, Meyer, Dollar, Tilton, Capps, Savelle, Hayes, et al.

What is tragic and cruel is that no matter how hard people strive, how many confessions they make, regardless of how much money they give…what they are trying to accomplish simply will not come to fruition because it is all based on a wrong interpretation of the Bible.

The Harm Caused by the WOF View of Divine Healing

My wife has a cousin who is dying of cancer.  Certainly we believe that Jesus still heals His people but today we know that He does so according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will. We may ask for His healing touch, but we must also be humble enough to accept the fact that we do not always receive what we ask for. Sometimes physical healing is not His will in every case. What is cruel is that Chuck, Tracy’s cousin, is surrounded by positive confession friends and family members who are doing nothing but speaking positive affirmations around him. Giving someone a false hope is cruel. Not ministering to a person in real pain with the comfort given to us in the scriptures is cruel. Having an individual question themselves regarding any past or “hidden” sins is cruel. I remember Copeland saying in one of his meetings  “if you play the game right you win.” Sick people are not playing the game correctly! Marilyn Hickey taught me in Robert Tilton’s Bible School that according to Proverbs 26:2 “As the bird by wandering as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come.”

Whenever someone is sick there is a cause and the cause is usually found within the sick individual. They sinned, they spoke against God’s anointed, they failed to tithe, they spoke negative fear-filled words and Satan brought them to pass in their life or they just had “head Knowledge” of God’s healing promises versus obtaining “revelation Knowledge.” The burden for obtaining the promised results was (and is) always placed squarely at the feet of the one who is at their weakest point. Fred Price, an internationally know WOF pastor says the following:

“But if I walk rightly, and if I walk in line with the Word of God, I am thoroughly convinced I can be free from sickness and disease. (7)

According to Mr. Price healing is the will of God for all of God’s children, but it is dependent upon them walking “in line” with the Word of God. Thus if one is sick, it is obvious that they have not been walking in line with God’s Word. Further on in the same book Mr. Price makes this declaration:

“If Jesus didn’t want sickness in His boy then, He doesn’t want sickness in His body now. That ought to tell you that it’s not possible that God could want anybody sick. NOT IN HIS BODY! (8)

Price makes the mistake of teaching that we are the literal “body of Christ”. That Jesus is the Head, and we in the Church are His actual body. This view is aberrant and it has never been the view of the Church from its inception. We are no more the literal body of Christ then we are literal branches and Jesus is the literal Vine (see John 15:1-4) The onus of sickness in the body is placed at the feet of the sick person by Price.

“You need to know that Satan can’t put them {sick/disease} on you unless you’re willing to receive them. What Satan does is give you a symptom, then you go to talking. “I guess I’m going to be sick.” When you say that you just “signed for the package.” It’s yours now, “Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth… (9)

According to Price, when a person is stricken with any sickness or disease it is because they have accepted the “package” that Satan has delivered by confessing into existence the reality of their symptoms.

I often wonder how Mr. Price explains how it is that his own wife was stricken with cancer. Betty Price has been listening to and confessing the “Word” according to the WOF cult and yet she became sick and even wrote a book about it! (10) Fred’s wife did not receive a divine healing miracle for her pelvic cancer but obtained the best medical care money can afford. Her cancer is in remission, for that we rejoice. However, if what her husband taught was in fact true, then why did his wife Betty “receive the package” {cancer} sent by Satan? Why didn’t she just confess it away from her in Jesus name?

Seriously folks, if what the WOF cult teaches regarding divine healing is true, then those who teach it, hear it, devote their every waking moment to it—ought to be the ones manifesting what has been promised. Yet here we have Betty Price unable to confess away the attack of Satan! Obviously neither could Joyce Meyer when she was treated for breast cancer. Peggy Capps, Charles Capps wife, also could not exert mastery over the beggarly element of liver cancer apart from medical treatment. Mack Timberlake succumbed to disease as did Hagin’s son-in-law Buddy Harrison who also died of cancer despite teaching the WOF doctrine on healing for close to twenty years!

Healing for the WOF devotee is always dependent upon the person’s knowledge (of God’s promises). And /or works (positive confession of these promises). Gloria Copeland, Kenneth Copeland’s wife says the following regarding divine healing:

“You must know that it is God’s will to heal you. Until this fact is settled in your mind and spirit, you cannot approach healing without being double minded and wavering. The Scripture states that the double minded man will receive nothing from the Lord.” (James 1:6-8). (11)

A person has to receive the gnosis that it is God’s will to heal His children every time and all the time they are sick in order to be healed. If you lack this certainty then you cannot be healed. Again, notice that the burden is placed on the sick person. They are responsible to allowing Satan to afflict them in the first place and since this is so (according to Price) they probably lack the knowledge of God’s will to heal them too. In short, these folks are doomed.

“Many try to reap the healing harvest without first planting the seed. ‘Until the person seeking healing is sure from God’s Word that it is God’s will to heal him, he is trying to reap a harvest where there is no seed planted. “ (12)

According to WOF doctrine, we all reap what we sow. If we sow the healing verses into our heart by confessing them, when Satan brings his symptoms of sickness, we will immediately reject them and confess that we are healed by the stripes of Jesus and we will be. It is that simple according to Copeland and John Osteen (and 100,000’s that follow their false doctrines):

In your heart of hearts, picture yourself completely delivered from sickness, suffering and all trouble. YOU ARE!! Now, take God’s promises without fear and boldly confess them day and night. When people ask you how you feel don’t tell them. TELL THEM WHAT GOD SAYD SNOUY YOU VSDR!! TELL THEM ABOUT THE PROMISES OF GOD!! TELL THEM YOU DON’T GO BY FEELINGS BUT BY WHAT GOD SAYS!!! (13)

I wonder how well this worked for Pastor Osteen, while he was lying in his hospital bed dying of heart problems and other conditions, Did confessing God’s “promises” work when his wife, Dodie, got liver cancer?  Reality has a rude way of bumping into people’s fantasies.

If someone attends a Benny Hinn crusade and does not receive their healing what is Benny’s answer “well you know I am not the healer.” (14) If someone manages to show any improvement then naturally Benny puts it goes on television, when nothing happens and the people later die, as has been proven multiple times, then nothing is said about it.

Tracy and I took a friend, Madelyn who had AIDS to a Hinn miracle crusade, she ended up sitting in the overflow area and to her dying day believed that if she could have only gotten closer to Benny she would have been healed! Talk about cruel!

The reality of living in a fallen world, in bodies that the Apostle Paul says is decaying daily (see 2Cor. 4:16) is ignored by WOF’ers. They want to see nothing but victory, overcoming every obstacle in life by the power of your faith is victory. Anything that might cause their followers to question the validity of their stance must be denied, denigrated, despised and rejected.

Those facing death in the WOF cult are not prepared to die, are not comforted by the promises of God regarding heaven, the work Jesus did on their behalf and that they can rest in His finished work. They are not told to trust in Christ Jesus alone, but are kept on the treadmill of works to their dying breath. No WOF pastor is going to come into the hospital and say “Chuck you are going to die, have you been seeing to the affairs of your life?” To confess he is going to die is to make it a fact! Can you see why I consider this cruelty and a perversion of the Christian faith my brothers and sister?  ♦

Copyright © 2004 by Robert Liichow

End Notes

1. This man’s name was Keith Grayton, he later died from a complication due to having AIDS. Fortunately by the time he came to our congregation my wife and I had just begun to attend seminary and we were on our way out of deception and recognized immediately that this was a dangerous individual to follow and his teaching while visiting our former church were instrumental in hastening our exit.

2. Nance, Terry Gods Armor Bearer (Gods Armorbear), 1980.

3. Ibid, God’s Armor Bearer book ll Shippensburg, PA Destiny Image Publications, 1994. Bold type and underlining added for emphasis.

4. Charisma magazine, August 2004. P. 95

5. I have dealt with some of the tactics used in our book entitled “Defending the Indefensible.’ which is available through our ministry for the cost.

6. Copeland, Kenneth The Force of Righteousness Forth Worth, TX KCP Publication, p. 16 1992. Underlining and bold type added for emphasis.

7. Price, Frederick Is Healing For All Tulsa, OK Harrison House Publishing. P. 8 1976.

8. Ibid pg. 31

9. Ibid p. 32.

10. Williford, Stanley O. Through the Fire and Through the Water, How Dr. Betty Price Conquered Cancer. Web site, http://faithdome.org/.

11. Copeland, Gloria, God’s Will for Your Healing. Fort Worth, TX. Kenneth Copeland Ministries, p., 3 1972

12. Copeland, Gloria God’s Will For Your Healing. Forth Worth, TX Kenneth Copeland Ministries, p. 8 1972.

13. Osteen, John. There Is A Miracle in Your Mouth. Houston, TX . John Osteen Publications. Pp. 17-18, 1972

14. There are two excellent resources to consider when looking into the world of Mr. Hinn, the first is the book “The Confusing World of Benny Hinn.’ available at http://www.pfo.org or ‘The many faces of Benny Hinn’ video available through the Trinity Foundation.

 

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