Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!…Luke 6:36

8 06 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – May 2010 – Vol. 15 Issue 5 – “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!…” Luke 6:36 – By Rev. Robert Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!…”

Luke 6:26

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

One of the attributes that is needed by every heresiologist (1) (aka heresy-hunter) is a thick skin and yet a sensitive heart which is a somewhat difficult emotional tightrope to have to traverse. Nonetheless, God does bestow His grace upon all of us as we endeavor to be faithful to our various vocations in Christ. DMI has little to fear of the above passage from Saint Luke coming to pass while DMI is still on this mortal coil.

Allow me to share with you a sample of just some (2) of the many negative emails we receive. I share them not to gain your pity, hey this is part-n-parcel of what we do, but because these comments are common and it is profitable for you to know how to give a simple answer; an apology for what you believe regarding these charges against all of us who contend earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).

If you truly had discernment you might even come to realize that you are not too different from the Pharisees, not even recognizing JESUS and blaming HIS miracles on the devil! You pretended to be filled with the HOLY SPIRIT only to find that it was just your flesh playing a game. So then you came to another fleshly decision, the infilling of the HOLY SPIRIT is not for now, GPD changed HIS mind. How sad it is to see the devil win even with so called educated preachers. If you ever mature in the word, you might be able to be lifted out of darkness and find the light of the LORD JESUS. I shall pray for you. More than likely any reply will only show more of your flesh!; and lack of a spiritual relationship with GOD, but if you must, go for it, ye of little knowledge of the HOLY SPIRIT or of faith. (3)

The above diatribe is from a brother Warrick Jerrall who I not only responded to, but also thanked for giving me additional material for this newsletter. Now let’s begin to unpack his charges, which are ones commonly lodged unfairly against us.

You Are Not Too Different From the Pharisees

I almost want to say “these guys need new writers” because their material is getting stale! Over ten years ago I wrote a booklet entitled “Will the Real Pharisee Please Stand Up? “ but it appears Warrick has yet to get a copy.

Warrick rightly states that the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus as the Holy One of Israel and they did accuse Jesus of working miracles by the power of the devil (see Matt. 9:33,34). However, he is wrong when he compares DMI (and myself) to them because we have the audacity to point out the FACT that Mr. Hinn and others are liars and frauds especially in the area of miracles and divine healing. Mr. Hinn cannot prove one genuine miraculous healing in his entire SINistry. Any power at work in his meetings is that of people’s heightened sense of gullibility, mind control, hope, desperation, fear and yes some demonic influences too. (4) The obvious fear context cannot be missed either. Warrick is basically saying that because we denounce the frauds, that we are in danger of committing the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the work of the Spirit. Did I hear someone say “Testify?”

DMI recognizes and gladly has bowed its collective knee to the supreme authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and declare Him to be God the Son, all of whose works glorify His Father in Heaven. Warrick is wrong to declare us Pharisees and anyone is equally wrong in calling you one too. These folks do so out of anger simply because you and I stand on the authority of the Bible and demand that every experience that is claimed to be wrought in and by God must be subject to His written Word. They lash out because when they are pressed to defend their experiences or doctrines by the context of Scripture because they cannot and we irritate them by our unwavering stance on the Bible.

You pretended to be filled with the HOLY SPIRIT

This charge is a bit of a baffler but I believe he is referring to the fact that I once used to speak in other tongues and no longer believe that Biblical gift of supernaturally speaking another language as empowered by the Holy Spirit is a gift given to the church today. (5) Yes I can certainly attest that when I was studying First Corinthians in seminary under Dr. H. Wayne House that I came to realize that I did not have the same gift as the Bible clearly describes, nor have I ever encountered anyone who did (nor have linguists who have been studying glossolalia for over 50 years). My former activity, while meaning to be spiritual was in fact a fleshly mental act. I can own that. What is more I thank God for bringing me back to a much closer fellowship with Him in prayer by using the “God-given” normal capacities I have.

Since DMI upholds the cessation point of view regarding the sign-gifts  Warrick equates this to mean that we deny the infilling of/with the Holy Spirit.  Nothing could be further from the truth. In his mind, and that of millions of sign-gift devotees, being “filled” with the Spirit equals speaking in other tongues. All people who speak with other tongues are Spirit-filled those who do not are not. So goes their belief on this matter.

We answer this charge by simple going back to the Bible and examining the relevant passages concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. (Romans 8:9)

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body —whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor. 12:13)

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. (Eph. 5:18-21)

When people confuse being filled with the Spirit and speaking in other tongues simply show them the above texts. Every person who is a genuine Christian at the moment of their conversion is filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 is the only verse Paul ever uses regarding being filled with the Spirit. Speaking in other tongues is not mentioned.  A lifestyle of thanksgiving is. A life focused on the goodness of God resulting in our heart flowing forth with praise in the name of Jesus our Lord is mentioned. Being filled with the Holy Spirit also results in a lifestyle of mutual submission to one another for the sake of Christ in the fear of God. All Christians are in fact sealed (sphragisamenos) unto the day of our redemption is fully realized (see 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13; Eph. 4:30). There is simply no such entity as a non-Spirit filled Christian.

Naturally I tried to direct Warrick to the pertinent passages and I challenged him to provide evidence of any miracles or healings in Hinn’s machine. I asked him to please show me where the following doctrines and practices could be found in the bible: 1) being slain in the spirit, 2) holy laughter, 3) spiritual drunkenness, 4) Jesus dying spiritually and being tormented by Satan in hell, etc….Here is his well reasoned apology for his beliefs:

I thought you were an idiot, you’ve proven my case little boy, as I said I will pray for you to get saved that you might not burn for an eternity. Precious LORD JESUS I pray this lost individual will be touched by the ONE he at present so easily blasphemes! You have never been able to walk with GOD, so it is pointless to answer ridiculous nonsense such as you espouse. You are doing nothing more than helping Satan with the idiotic nonsense on your pathetic website.

I must have struck a nerve in brother Warrick. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34). Now he has gone from simply seeing me as an errant brother to being an idiot, and one who is not saved and thus facing eternal damnation. I guess he figures Jesus’ injunction against calling ones brother a fool does not apply to me since I am not really a brother now. Instead of answering my questions in a mature manner, instead of trying to defend what he obviously believes is true he simply ridicules me and since I am an idiot it would be “pointless to answer ridiculous nonsense…”  How is that for an apology?

“Sticks and stones can break my bones, but false doctrines can kill me.” (6) He had no answers to give me. He had no true biblical defense so instead he goes on the offense by hurling ad hominem attacks against his questioner. I meant nothing personal in asking my questions, all I sincerely hoped for was that he’d think about them, check them out in the Bible and come to the correct conclusion that he has been wrong. I urged him to consider God’s gracious offer of deliverance by bringing to our web site and not to dismiss it.

Unfortunately, we can see his response, which is typical of many enmeshed in this movement, that thus far his mind is as closed as a steel trap. That is the danger of deception, it is so deceiving and it has in its power the ability to blind men’s eyes to the truth and only God alone can lift that veil.

Jesus said we would do what He did, right? The works I do he will do John 14 this tells me we will cast out demons; have Transfiguration experiences (GO, CATHOLICS!! They do this, right?); go to the wilderness and not get into ministry until we are finished like Jesus did and let Him shake the world off us because we don’t go to doctors, medicines, lawyers, public, schools, SSI, Unemployment, TV, radio, newspapers, among other things; change water into wine (or change one thing into another); walk through crowds; heal the sick; raise the dead; and much more. Do you these things? I would like to know Thanks.  Connie

Connie begins by citing a familiar text and somehow quickly meanders off into what I will assume she means “Roman” Catholic when she refers to transfiguration experiences. (Uh Connie, I know of no Roman Catholic transfiguration experiences per se, do you maybe mean transubstantiation experiences?)  From there it seems ministers are to go into the wilderness and not come back out until we are to go into the wilderness and not come back out until we are “finished” like Jesus. If that were the case Connie the wilderness today would be filled with the bones of Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Kenny Hagin, Kathy Kuhlman and other SINistries who never would have gotten out. Somehow the “finished” ones will have allowed Jesus to shake off the world from them —how do we know this has happened in their lives? Because, Connie and the other super-saints have transcended the need to go to: (1) doctors, (2) use medicines, (3) use lawyers {highly commendable}, (4) public schools {yeah they can be a cesspool}, (5) SSI {don’t sweat it, it will be bankrupt before we can get to it anyway,} (6) unemployment, (7) television {not much on these days}, (8) water into wine, (9) walk through crowds {been doing that all my life}, (10) heal the sick {I have never healed anyone, laid hands on some that GOD did gracious deliver}, (11) raise the dead {I have tried on 2 occasions, failed miserably}.

Hey Connie, let me ask you some questions. Apart from our Lord Jesus Christ do you know any human being past or present who has done the works of Jesus in the manner that Jesus Himself did them? I do not know of anyone and my research goes back to the earliest accepted Christian writings. Radio and television are out, but obviously the internet is in why is this? Jesus washed the feet of His disciples (see John 13:12) do you do so too {I have, but humility precludes me from mentioning it further, blush/blush}? Are you really among those who reject doctors and medicine? If so, then you also forego the dentist, the usual inoculations, and have OPPTED OUT of all health insurance plans as well as OPTING OUT of SSI (oh yes folks, one can do this and receive the monies otherwise deducted, but BEWARE if you do so)—having done all of the aforementioned (sorry a little legal-lingo that the lawyers that you do not believe in use) what is your success ratio for (1) healings, (2) miracles, (3) resurrections, (4) transfigurations/transubstantiations thus far?

Connie’s response? Allow me to gently wrest a text for humors sake–”And there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Rev. 8:1)  meaning, she had no response.

What does John 14:12 mean for us today?

I think the greater works Jesus had in mind are not greater miracles in terms of signs and wonders. Instead, the greater works done by those who believe in Jesus refer to the work of the spirit in people’s hearts, a work of the Spirit that has greater dimensions now that Jesus has ascended to the Father. (7)

This view is the commonly accepted view with the accompanying four arguments in support:

1. The “greater works” cannot refer to signs and wonders that are greater in quality than those done by Jesus because no believer ever has or ever will do greater miracles than Jesus. He raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, healed the lame, calmed a story sea, etc. No miracle-worker has ever come close since the days of the apostles, and even the apostles did not do any signs and wonders that were greater.

2. But perhaps John means that believers will do greater works in the sense that we will do more signs and wonders than Jesus? But the Greek word for “greater” used here does not refer to a greater number of works. If John wanted to refer to a greater number of works, he probably would have used the Greek word “polla” meaning “more.” A careful study of the world “greater” in John’s gospel shows that the word consistently refers to something that is greater in quality rather than something that is greater in number. For example, in John 19:11 Jesus says to Pilate “he who delivered me up to you has the greater sin.” In other words, Judas’ sin is a more serious sin (not greater in number!) Than Pilate because he actually betrayed Jesus. Some other examples: John 4:12 “Are you greater than Jacob?” this obviously means greater in quality, and the idea of greater in number doesn’t make any sense. 5:36 “I have a testimony greater than John.” the testimony is not greater in number, but greater in quality, for the superior testimony comes from the Father. John 8:53 “Are you greater than Abraham?” John 10:29 “the Father is greater than all.” John 13:16 “The servant is not greater than his master.” John 14:28 “the Father is greater than I.” the most significant example is from John 5:20 where Jesus says, “And greater works than these he (the Father) shall show to him (Jesus) that you may marvel.” This verse is very close to John 14:12 because in both verses Jesus speaks of “greater works.” Jesus is contrasting here his healing of the lame man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-16) with the greater works that he would do in the future. The greater works in the context appear to the communication of spiritual life (John 5:21,24,25), the judgment of all (5:22), and the future resurrection from the dead (John 5:29). The point here is not that these works are greater in number, but they are qualitatively superior to the healing of a man who was lame. These works are superior because they will last forever, while the lame man got sick again and died. To conclude this second point: the greater works do not mean believers will do more works than Jesus, but that they will do works qualitatively better than those Jesus did in his ministry. These better works are due to the outpouring of the Spirit after Jesus’ ascension. [Note: Incidentally, there is no evidence from church history that any believer did more miracles than Jesus anyway, and this verse is not limited to those who have the gift of healing; it refers to all believers.]

3. The word “works” in John’s gospel in some contexts clearly includes Jesus’ miracles (John 7:3, 21; 9:4, 10:25, 32,33,37,38). But even though the word often includes the idea of miracles, the word “works” cannot be limited to signs and wonders in John’s gospel. For example, John 6:28,29 identifies the “work of God” as “believing in the one whom the father sent.” and in John 8:39 Jesus exhorts the Jews to “do the works of Abraham,” and there is no record of Abraham doing miracles, and so Jesus must mean, “do the good deeds of Abraham.” John 14:10 is especially interesting, for their Jesus says, “the words which I speak to you I do not speak from myself, but the Father abiding in me does his works.” Here the “words” of Jesus in the first part of the verse are defined as his “works” in the latter part of the verse. Thus, we have clear Evidence in the near context (compare also verse 11) that the word “works” should not be restricted to signs and wonders.  Indeed, when John wants to speak of miracles, he consistently uses the word “sign.” “Sign” is the unambiguous word John uses to describe Miracles, and the word “works” is a more general term, which may include miracles, but does not necessarily focus on signs and wonders. All of this suggests that the first part of verse 12 where Jesus says, “the one who believes in me the works I do he shall do also” does not mean that believers will do miracles and signs and Wonders to the same extent as Jesus.  The word “works” is a general term, and thus Jesus is simply saying that you will do works of the same quality as I did and more. It should also be Noted that Jesus’ miraculous works were unique in the sense that such “signs” manifested his unique glory from the Father (John 2:11), and John tells us that the signs Jesus did were performed so that “you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and in order that by believing you might have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). Thus, Jesus’ miracles were in one sense a unique manifestation of his glory and divinity. This is not to deny that miracles can be done today. The point is that Jesus’ miracles were unique, and no one in church history or in the Bible has ever matched Jesus in miraculous activity.

4. The greater works, then, refer to the extended work of the Spirit, which will occur when Jesus ascends to the Father. This is not to deny that the Spirit was active previously in significant ways. But the work of the Spirit on earth was intensified with Jesus’ ascension. Note that Jesus specifically says that “the greater works” will occur “because I go to the Father.” Going to the Father, then, provides the reason or ground for the greater works. But why does Jesus’ going to the Father make possible greater works? The rest of John’s gospel answers that question. In John 16:7 Jesus says, “It is better for you that I go, for if I do not go, the paraclete will not come to you, but if I go I will send him to you.” This fits beautifully with John 14:12. Jesus says that it will be better if he goes because only when he goes will the Spirit be sent. And John 16:8-11 makes it clear that the Spirit when he comes will convict unbelievers of sin, righteousness and judgment. Such conviction of sinners is clearly another way of describing the “greater works” which will occur after Jesus goes. Greater than any healing is the inclusion of one’s name in the book of life. Jesus reminds his disciples of this when they are so excited about casting out demons in Luke 10:20. “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.”   (8)

These four points can be condensed into a shorter more easily shared version, but learn the argument first and adapt it to your own needs. Connie probably was somewhat well meaning, ok, a little back-handed slap with the “do you do these things” implying some deficiency if one was/is not doing them. She is a victim of bad hermeneutics (9) and is clueless regarding how to properly interpret the Scriptures.

Regrettably Connie’s spiritual aliment is one that is commonly suffered by the majority of her fellow sign-gift compatriots. They have a zeal for Christ, but a zeal without knowledge, what we at DMI call “excited ignorance.” Due to their inability to correctly interpret the Scriptures the leaders and their followers rely upon experiences to validate their understanding of the (sometimes Satan is glad to oblige). When anyone lacks the tools to properly interpret the bible (rest assured it is not some arcane science) they are left to rely on their own experiences, beliefs, culture and fallen reasons. The entire sign-gift movement is built upon key individuals experiences and these experiences went on to become doctrinal positions and/or practices.  (10)

Whenever one attempts to build a theological contextual argument for modern Pentecostalism the arguments fall down upon close examination.

The answer for the Warrick’s, Connie’s and others is simply to strive in a winsome manner to direct them back to the Bible. If we are all Christians (which includes our sign-gift brethren) then we can agree {hopefully} that the bible is God’s Word and thus is authoritative when understood in its proper context and setting. When this foundation is established then we can begin to examine and consider the various doctrines and practices that separate us. The goal in this endeavor is not to win the argument, but most importantly to win our brother over from doctrinal darkness into the light and liberty of God’s Word rightly understood. (11)

DMI does not fear the “woe” of all men speaking well of us, we have other issues to try not to worry about, but that is not one of them. These few e-mails I have shared are only the tip of the iceberg regarding the biblical ignorance of those misled by convincing con artists on television, radio and the internet. I can assure you that 99.9% of sign-gift folks cannot defend what they believe. How can I say this? Because probably 90% of the rest of the Church cannot defend what they believe either! Obviously, our readers are within the 10% that can or is interested in defending the bible and Christ Jesus against an ungodly world.

In closing let me simply say this—God always has a remnant of people who will refuse to bow the knee to the Baal of their day. Today it is a people who refuse to compromise their stance upon the written Word of God. A people who will swim upstream against the current of go-along-to-get-alone that has lulled the Church asleep. In short, folks like you whom God has awakened to sound the alarm to those at ease and complacent in Zion.

Copyright © 2010 Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Heresiology is the formal study of heresy; ergo one who studies heresy and heretics is a heresiologist.

2. DMI receives and responds to 100’s of emails per week, but the added counseling and prayer requests that now come to us via Facebook.

3. This is first of a few e-mails by brother Warrick, his email address is Warwick Jerall jerrallwl@yahoo.com in case anyone would like to send him an encouraging word or helpful link J The underlining and bold type was added by me for emphasis and is not in the original e-mail.

4. I have participated in several of Mr. Hinn’s meetings, even singing in several of his mass choirs. I have seen firsthand the manipulation of desperate, and gullible people—all for the sake of money, adulation and personal worship.

5. An interesting book on the topic is Glossolalia by Stagg, Hinson, Oates, Abingdon Press.

6. Part of a child’s nursery rhyme taught to all young heresy-hunters.

7. Obtained from http://www.sbts.edu/documents/tschreiner/John14_12pdf  on  04-26-2010

8. Ibid

9. How to Read The Bible for All It is Worth by Dr. Gordon Fee is an excellent book to begin to learn how to interpret the Bible. Look for a used copy at www.http://www.abebooks.com

10. Without having to write an entire book consider the following and then do the necessary follow-up research if desired: 1) William Seymour leading Azusa allowed spiritualist mediums experiences to meld in with the Christian seekers. 2) Oneness Pentecostalism started in a brush arbor meeting around 1914 when a man had a “vision” of Jesus Only on the Mt. of Transfiguration, 3) William Branham was led by angels, and the list goes on and on.

11. I say “rightly understood” to mean that correct doctrine liberates, false doctrine brings people into bondage. “Rightly” is a loaded term, I admit that, but for the sake of this argument I am referring to the commonly held orthodox.

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Does the Bible Support A Doctrine of Being Slain in the Spirit? Part 2 of 3

22 03 2010
Truth Matters Newsletters – November 2009 – Vol. 14 Issue 11 – Does the Bible Support A Doctrine of Being Slain in the Spirit? Part 2 of 3 – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

Does the Bible Support A Doctrine of Being Slain in the Spirit?

Part 2 of 3

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

The “Ministry” of the Catchers

This phenomena has caused the need to develop a “new” ministry within the church, that of the Catcher. No matter where you go, whether it is to a revival service at Toronto, Pensacola or a Vineyard Fellowship you will encounter the ministry of the Catchers. This is an actual “ministry” within charismatic fellowships and people are trained in how to fulfill this duty (it is often done by the ushers within a local assembly).

A catcher is a man who stands behind those receiving prayer. Their job is to “catch” the people who are being slain in the spirit. The catchers job is to make sure the person being “blessed” does no harm to themselves or those around them. Charismatic congregations even have written guidelines for catchers:

Tips For Catching People:

1. Do not touch the person being prayed for, but reassure them that there is someone behind them.

2. You don’t have to take a hold of their shoulders as if you are going to help God.

3. As the person moves down, move back and then facilitate their move.

4. Men- be careful when touching women.

5. Get them to fall back, not forward.

6. Catchers – ONLY catch, do not pray. Do not wave your hands only stand and be ready to catch.

7. Please do not push or pull anyone over. God does not need any help and it will ultimately backfire.

8. Do not hold anyone up by grabbing their shoulders or upper back.

Let me begin by asking a rhetorical question. If the power of God is knocking people down and placing them in an altered state of consciousness for the purpose of spiritually blessing them, then why do these churches employ the use of catchers?

The answer is quite simple —- if people are falling flat on their backs from an upright position they are very liable to hurt themselves or others.

We previously read that extremists explain this manifestation as being the result of encountering the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. If this is so, He is not mighty enough to see to it that those He sovereignty knocks down are unhurt by His blessing?

These churches employ catchers because: (1) they know people fake being slain many times. (2) They lack faith in their own stated beliefs. Obviously God is not big enough to safeguard His people.

In our former church along with the male catchers we had sisters who came along beside or behind the catchers with large sheets of material. Their ministry was to place these sheets over the women’s legs and bodies. Why? Because many times when women would be slain in the spirit they would fall in very immodest positions.

We had events where when some unfortunate women fell their dresses would be hiked up their bodies quite a bit, and their legs would be splayed out at inappropriate angles. When the Lord choose to embarrass His daughters in this manner we had to be there to quickly cover up their shame. Does this really sound like something the Lord God would do to His daughters?

Not only can being slain in the spirit prove to be embarrassing to a woman, it can prove deadly as well. Mrs. Ella Peppard died as a result of someone falling on her who had been slain in the spirit.

The ushers quickly pulled her off the stage and sat her in a pew where she cried out in pain for 20 minutes….The woman’s family alleged the ushers refused to call an ambulance because an ambulance would not look good at a miracle service. A lawsuit was settled out of court. Hinn says he never knew the woman was injured or he would have sought medical help.

According to charismatic theology the Holy Spirit will place women in morally embarrassing positions, and at times allow some people to be hurt and/or killed.

I know from past experience (I used to be a catcher) that when there was no one standing behind a saint receiving prayer nine times out of ten they would not fall down. This alone is proof to me that what is taking place is not a sovereign move of the power of God. There is a power involved at times but it is not of God.

3

The Historical Roots of the Phenomenon

I began by citing Stanley Burgess’s definition in the first chapter and it is a good one except for one point – he says it is a relatively “modern” expression. His statement is not correct. People have been allegedly falling under the power in the United States since the early 1760’s. It was a common expression among the Shakers. There were groups before the Shakers in Europe, which had this same manifestation:

The Convolutionaries

The extreme exercises of the “convolution Aries” startled Belgium and France. The grave of a young Jansenist clergyman, Francois de Paris, in the cemetery of Saint-Medard in Paris, because the scene of reputed marvelous cures. Multitudes flocked thither for healing. Strange bodily agitations seized the devotees. They fell in shakings and convulsions, threw themselves about on the ground, screamed, and assumed unusual and often unseemly postures.

The Shaker’s

Later on in the mid seventeen hundreds in America the Shaker cult also had people falling under the power. Their bodily agitations or exercise were various and called by various names, as the falling exercise…The falling exercise was very common…The subject of this exercise would, generally with a piercing scream, fall like a log on the floor, earth, or mud, and appear as dead.

The Shakers were a cult group led by a woman named Ann Lee. Many of the manifestations which are common to charismatic extremism, were first practiced by the Shakers. Since the Shakers were a pagan cult the source of their manifestations could not have been the Holy Spirit.

The Shakers were very evangelistic in their zeal to propagate their false doctrines & practices. Shaker evangelists were involved with the Cane Ridge “Revival,” and brought their manifestations (which they called “signs”) with them and infected the meetings.

People Were “Slain” During the Cane Ridge Revival

It was during the Cane Ridge meetings that we see more examples of the manifestation of being slain in the spirit. The underlining is added for emphasis:

The scene to me was new and passing strange…Many, very many fell down, as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state sometimes for a few moments reviving, and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep groan, or piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy most fervently uttered…Then the woman who had first stated shouting let out a shrill of anguish. Methodist John McGee, seemingly entranced, made his way to comfort her. Someone (probably his Presbyterian brother) reminded him this was a Presbyterian church; the congregation would not condone emotionalism! Later John recalled, “I turned to go back and was near falling; the power of God was strong upon me. I turned again and, losing sight of the fear of man, I went through the house shouting and exhorting with all possible ecstasy and energy, and the floor was soon covered with the slain” people were falling in ecstasy.

This eyewitness of the Cane Ridge excess described the people falling in “ecstasy,” but is this necessarily a good thing? Pagan religion has long been given over to ecstatic forms of worship (see 1 Kings 18:28). The Oracle at Delphi breathed in the fumes which rose from the ground and in an ecstatic state uttered prophecies which directed the lives of many people.

ECSTASY The state of being in a trance, especially a mystic or prophetic trance. The derivation of our word “ecstasy” (from the Greek ek, out plus stasis, state) suggests an out of body state (2 Cor. 12:2,3) or the state of being out of control.

From what I have personally witnessed and experienced being slain in the spirit is a condition in which the individual’s normal rational mental state is suspended, and that person is for a period of time literally out of control. During the Shaker meetings and at Cane Ridge we find multitudes of people capitulating their volitional sensibilities over to an experience which was so great it physically overwhelmed them. However, it was also noted by the orthodox Reformed ministers at Cane Ridge, that a person simply getting slain was not a true indicator of spiritual regeneration, “They noted that some who “fell” had within six months gone back to the world.”

The Ministry of Charles Finney

After the Cane Ridge revival the experience of being slain in the spirit became common in many revival meetings. One evangelist in particular whose revival meetings were patterned after the emotional excesses of Cane Ridge was Charles Finney. In many of his meetings people were slain in the spirit:

Before the week was out I learned that some of them, when they would attempt to observe this season of prayer, would lose all of their strength and be unable to rise to their feet, or even stand upon their knees in their closets.

The congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell

Finney was not particularly concerned with scriptural precedent, he was interested in getting result and fostered the belief that revival was not a sovereign move of God’s Spirit, but that revivals could be planned and worked up by the use of what he called new measures.

The Ministry of Maria Woodworth Etter

Being slain in the spirit was one of the ordinary signs in the ministry of Maria Woodworth-Etter (1844-1924) the trance evangelist.

Yesterday during the afternoon meeting the Lord Jesus bowed the heaven and came down. Many went under the power. Two women and a girl were struck down unconscious, and lay on the floor…The second woman lay unconscious for about two and one-half hours, with both arms raised to heaven. When she was recovering she sang praises unto God in the spirit.”

Her ministry manifestations began in 1885, 21 years before the Azusa “revival.” She received a spiritual renewal at a Friends meeting in 1879. Here is a woman, who received some type of spiritual power from a Quaker meeting. Keep in mind that the Society of Friends, the Quakers, were originally a non-Christian group (although many people unknowingly lump them in with Christian groups).

Maria would go into trances, people came to her while she was in a trance state and allegedly got “saved.” She would lay hands on others and place them in a similar trance-state.

The Ministry of Aimee Semple McPherson

The practice of people being slain was not widespread in Pentecostal circles after Etter’s death. It became more commonplace through the ministry of another woman minister named Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944). Sister Aimee was also a traveling evangelist and she too had people fall out under the power in her ministry—

One of these was a Sunday school teacher at the city’s largest Protestant church. After Aimee touched him, he dropped to the floor trembling and speaking in tongues. The next day, the wife of a leading citizen had a similar experience, and scores of people came to the altar for counseling. The day after that, “Three were slain under the power and through speaking in tongues,” Aimee said.

Aimee was very controversial to say the least. She is the Founder of the Foursquare Gospel denomination. She later died of a barbiturate overdose in 1944. To this day charismatic believers ignore the fact that she was a divorcee and most likely faked her own kidnapping in order to spend time in an adulterous liaison in 1926. Yet the power of God is supposed to have flowed mightily through during her life!

The Ministry of Kathryn Kuhlman

The next major figure whose ministry is responsible for making the practice of being slain in the spirit part-and-parcel of charismatic healing and miracles services was Kathryn Kuhlman (1907-1976).

Kathryn committed adultery with a married man, who left his wife and children to marry Kathryn. A few years later Kathryn divorced him and never remarried. She died of heart disease in 1976. I bring these distasteful facets up because it show some of the character of these mighty Pentecostal/Charismatic giants of the faith. I am not saying these people were not saved, nor that they did not sincerely repent of their sins. However, character does matter in ministry.

Apart from the well-documented healings, the most sensational phenomena associated with Kuhlman was “going under the power” (sometimes referred to as “slain in the Spirit”) as people fell when she prayed for them. This sometimes happened to dozens at a time and occasionally hundreds.

Her ministry was international in scope. Well received by many Pentecostal’s and the fledgling charismatic renewal movement of the 1960’s.

I have witnessed Mr. Kenneth Hagin have a long line of people hold hands and he lay hands on the head of the first person and then the entire line fall down. I have personally seen Benny Hinn whirl around and “throw” a wave of anointing in his meetings and multitudes have fallen, as if shot on several occasions. As recently as August 1, 1997 my wife and I were at the Toronto Airport Church and we witnessed multitudes being slain in the spirit as John and Carol Arnott laid hands on people.

The Phenomenon Is Universally Accepted By Charismatic Christians Today

This experience is almost universal to all charismatic’s. If you know any, ask them if they have ever been slain in the spirit and what it was like.

This practice and manifestation is accepted de facto due in large part to the following:

  • The long history behind it, i.e. God has always done this.
  • Their own subjective experience of it, they got “blessed.”
  • They have been taught that the Bible clearly teaches this is a legitimate experience of what takes place when God’s power comes on an individual.

Slain- Carol Arnott

As with holy laughter today’s revivalists strongest case is that of historical precedent. Yet when anyone takes an honest look at the history of this manifestation, they see a historical background of occultism (with the Shakers), aberrant mystics like Maria Woodworth-Etter, and ministers of dubious character such as Aimee McPherson and Kathryn Kuhlman. The historical case is not sufficient, nor will it ever be, to overrule the plain teachings of the Bible.

From an exegetical view point the revivalist have even less support. None of the texts they cite as “proof” for this practice can be legitimately applied. All of the texts have to do with divine encounters which were extremely important to the plan of God either for Israel as a nation or for the Church. It is not enough to locate texts which denote someone falling and then interpret them to refer to being slain in the spirit. All of their comparisons are at best apples-to-apples. None of the writings of the Early Church Fathers indicate any such manifestation as part-and-parcel of normal Christian experience, in fact, they never mention it at all. One would think that these writers would have recorded some evidence of this manifestation in their writings if it was a genuine experience given by the Holy Spirit, especially one that alleges to bestow ministry calls, visions of the Lord, emotional and physical healing. Yet the historic record of the Church for almost 1,700 years is totally silent on this matter.

As I have already stated the history behind this practice is extremely questionable at best. The earliest references we have of it in America come from the Shakers, a non-Christian cult of necromancers. The familiar spirits (demons) told the Shakers at the same time in their various communes that they, the spirits, were leaving the Shakers and going to visit the “world’s people,” and would do so by various manifestations. This did occur and many Christian sects, unsound in doctrine were open to such forms of enthusiasms, and this deception continues to this day. The practice of being slain in the spirit is less than four hundred years old, and has had only marginal acceptance at best in the past. However, this has changed in our time.

Now with rapid growth of neo-Montanism with the Church this practice is now a common, sometimes weekly experience for literally millions of people professing the name of Jesus Christ.

The sheer numbers of people submitting to an experience does not validate it as biblical. Truth is not determined by consensus. Truth is revealed to us by the written Word of God. The Westminster Confession of Faith states what the Christian’s relationship to the Bible ought to be:

IV. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed depends not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

VI. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:

God’s Word along is the standard by which we live. His Word contains all things necessary for salvation, faith and life. These things are expressly set down in the Bible, or “by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture.” This deduction however is not accomplished by violating the principles of hermeneutics and wresting the texts from their context in order to attempt to make them fit one’s experience.

This is exactly what today’s revivalists have done regarding being slain in the spirit. This experience is not mentioned once contextually in the entire Bible. Every text the revivalists site as proof of their non-biblical practice has been taken from it context and misapplied.

The revivalists have failed both historically and biblically to make their case that this manifestation is the result of the Holy Spirit or the glory of God coming upon an individual to such a degree their physical bodies cannot withstand it. And thus fall to the ground in some form of a trance-like condition. With this in mind we must seek other explanations.

Learned Behavior

There is an undeniable element of learned behavior with this phenomena. A minister gets up and preaches, towards the end of the message he or she will begin to make allusions to what people may see or experience while being prayed for. Often some of the texts we have considered will be sited to validate what the congregation will see or personally experience. The catchers are called forward and then an alter call is given. The first people are lined up with catchers behind them. Hands are laid on the people and some of them begin to fall into the arms of the catchers. The other people are observing this behavior. When their turn comes, they too fall down.

This is the basic pattern of ministry I have personally observed for over fifteen years, it was the pattern I also used while in full-time charismatic ministry. Although not done consciously, I and other ministers, were setting the state by psychologically preparing the people in advance. On the part of the people, they wanted to get blessed, they wanted a stronger “anointing” or deeper walk with Christ. Seeing others fall, they too fell. Many times I knew as a minister that people were simply “faking it.” How? When people came up for prayer I would notice them quickly look behind them to make sure there was a catcher there to “catch” them when they fell. These fakers, came knowing in advance that they were going to fall, and they wanted assurance they would be caught. 

(TO BE COMPLETED NEXT MONTH!)

Copyright 2009 Robert S. Liichow

* Color-highlight and some bolding are not in the original book by Robert S. Liichow.

 

 

 

 

 

 





The Next “New” Move?

1 09 2009

Truth Matters Newsletters – June 2006 – Vol. 11 Issue 6 – “The Next “New” Move? By Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Next “New” Move?

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In the May issue of Truth Matters I took the readers through a brief look at what happened to the leaders of the last revival referred to as “The Toronto Blessing” or “The Pensacola Outpouring.” I also stressed the reality of how most sign-gift believers and Pentecostal people are on a continual pilgrimage seeking to become a part of the current move of the holy Spirit.

Once the last so-called revival (Holy Laughter/Sign & Wonders) died out and most of the initial leaders either got booted out of their pulpits or left when the people and money dried up. This left millions of people wondering “what is the next move of the Spirit?” I felt like screaming “EUREKA I’VE FOUND IT”! In the June 2006 issue of Charisma magazine, I believe I have discovered what some “big hitters” are calling the next movement which they claim redefines what Church is. The tag line of the article reads as follows:

“Who said Christians have to meet in a traditional building with a pulpit? Innovative Christians today are Redefining Church.”

On page 32 of Charisma it reads, God is Out of the Box,” introducing this new and exciting ministry trend simply called the house church. Basically what this means is that certain people, usually disillusioned with their former congregational life and their position in it, have left the traditional church and banded together in small groups that meet in homes. Let me cite from the beginning of the article:

Not everyone at her home church follows Christ, including her husband, a disillusioned former church member….who accepted Christ in 1978, but quickly faded away from a church she found cold and formal….’I didn’t want to participate in what I saw going on in the name of Christ, ‘ Weger says of her shunning of traditional congregations for more than 25 years. (1)

It is immediately evident that Weger’s initial concept of the Church was faulty. It is not about her it is about the worship of Jesus! It is obvious from the following statement that in her mind her needs were not being met.

Years ago when Weger was hurting and collapsed in tears at her old church, she says several leaders walked by without speaking [to her]. (2)

Understand that Weger is a sign-gift person, so the church she attended years ago was undoubtedly a charismatic congregation where, and I speak from personal patoral experience, it was not at all an uncommon sight to see people weeping before, during and after services. Did these “several” leaders even see her? Were they involved in a discussion among themselves as they passed? Was weeping a common occurrence in that congregation? Did she follow up this possible slight by going to any of these leaders and ask for an explanation, telling them that they had offended her?

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Matthew 18:15

I am sure that she did not, she simply took the offense as a sign that her church was cold formal and uncaring. Like many little kids, she took her “ball and went home and started her own church. How do I know this is what happened? To begin with she does not share in the article that she followed the simple biblical pattern for conflict resolution. Secondly, in my varied positions of over twenty three years in congregational leadership I have yet to see but a handful of Christians enact the Matthew 18:15 principle. It is easier to run to the pastor and “tattle” on someone who has seemingly wronged you, or tell a “prayer partner” which somehow sanctifies the gossip.

Allow Me to Digress A moment

I am off topic here but this is vitally important to all our spiritual lives. When you have been offended by someone then in obedience to Christ’s own command go to that person first. Nine times out of ten you will learn that the person who “hurt” you was not even aware that her or she did do. Often you will learn that it was not their intention to hurt you (I know from some comments on sermons I’ve delivered). In fact, you may even discover that you were wrong in feeling hurt in the first place and that it is you who ought to be asking forgiveness from the one you are addressing. Or, if the person was indeed in the wrong then he or she should say they are sorry and ask your forgiveness. If this does not happen then our Master lays out the next steps to be taken. For the life of me I do not know why people do not follow this simple commandment. At least 90% of the problems within the life of any congregation would be squelched if this was followed. Instead people go to others first, then like the old telephone game by the time the message reaches the accused offending party it is totally overblown. What is the result of such behavior?

Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: Hebrews 12:15

People get offended and simply ignore or refuse to work with the “accused” in community life. (3) More times than not people leave that congregation and take their unhealed wounds to another place of worship and often cause problems in the new congregation due to past unresolved issues.

End of Digression

Weger is totally against traditional churches and seems to have a low opinion of those who still remain “in the box.”

Ironically, today Weger says the hardest people to discuss Jesus’ love with are traditional church members. (4)

Obviously not everyone who attends Church is a genuine Christian, yet the Bible clearly states the following:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14

She gives no further clarification of her statement, but she is implying that either non-Christians or the new breed of house church folk are easier to discuss the love of Christ with! Non-Christians cannot understand biblical truth, so how can Christians be harder to talk to about the One who saved them? As for me, this certainly has not been my experience in talking about Jesus to my brothers and sisters.

Grandiose claims are being made for these small independent house churches. The Charisma article goes as far to declare it as an actual movement called the “house-church movement” (as if we need another movement). Here is the next tag line for the article:

The Revolution now upon us is a complete paradigm shift, taking us back to the time of Christ. It is going to be a lot bigger than the Reformation” James Rutz, author of Megashift

Oh really? Casting off all traditional orthodox structure, having no biblically trained pastors and sitting around in small disaffected groups singing Kumbaya is going to be bigger than the Evangelical Reformation? I sincerely doubt it, Charisma magazine doesn’t:

Judging by the house-church movement that is exploding across North America, Weger’s story can be repeated millions of times. (5)

What is the basis for the claim of “millions” of house-church groups in America today? Enter “big hitter” number one, George Barna. Mr. Barna is best known for his poll taking and statistical data is the source for deeming this an “exploding” movement:

Christian demographer George Barna estimates 8 percent to 9 percent of adults in the United States—22 million to 24 million people—are now involved in some form of house church. (6)

Anyone who has ever taken a class on statistics knows how inaccurate the results can be. I’m willing to wager that no one reading this newsletter was polled. I know we were not asked. I wonder where he gets his data, or is it as he says an “estimate.” It should come as no surprise that Mr. Barna himself has left traditional Christianity and is part of this so-called house-church movement.

In the minds of these people they see the Church as a failure. A common expression I used to hear is “it isn’t working anymore,” the “it” being the Church. Whenever you hear comments like that, or, “we need to do things a new way,” don’t blithely accept those comments. Instead, challenge them. Ask the individual to define what is not working? How do you measure success? I know in America success means bigger numbers and better stuff, we often call that growth. There is a HUGE difference between numerical and spiritual growth my brothers and sisters. What is the “new way?” Is the role of the Church to conform to a fallen society’s ever-changing mode (what I call dumbing-down) or are we called to be salt (see Matt 5:13) and light (see Matt. 5:14) and by God’s grace change society?

The next “big hitter” who surely recognizes a move of the Holy Spirit when he sees it is John Arnott:

John Arnott, former senior pastor of Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship says, If we are going to reach the world for Jesus, we need a completely new model of ‘doing church,’ Arnott wrote in the most recent issue of House2House magazine. (7)

Arnott must one day stand before God and give account for facilitating the deception of millions of people who flocked to TACF to obtain the “new wine” that was allegedly being poured out. When the wine stopped flowing, it seems that Mr. Arnott had to get going…somewhere else. Now he is an advocate for the house-church movement. I guess he can only find a handful of people willing to follow him at this point.

Another significant player in this latest fad is Neil Cole, a church planter for the Grace Brethren denomination. He has started at least 700 of these house-churches.

After leaving his traditional pulpit seven years ago to launch a church in a coffeehouse, Cole says the network that sprang up from that effort soon led to Christians meeting every day of the week in Long Beach. (8)

Latte and a lectionary (opps, they don’t know what one is), or how about espresso and a short exhortation, maybe some java and jubilation? Cole goes on to reveal his heart in the following statement:

I think the most significant breakthrough is the concept that Christians can hear and obey God without an established leader telling them what to do…We have removed a lot of filters between God’s people and God’s voice. (9)

God speaks to us only through His Word, and so it is true that all Christians can “hear” God through His Word and without a doubt all Christians should obey what God says in His Word. The great danger I see in this movement is that of the blind leading the blind. There are rules for interpreting the Bible, it is called hermeneutics.

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation   2 Peter 1:20

Faulty biblical interpretation has led to the creation of every Bible-based cult, sect and aberrant group in the world. All of the heresies today, all of the biblical errors being taught and all of the false practices stem from an initial improper interpretation of the scriptures.

What filters have been removed? I assume the role of an educated pastor and biblically trained elders. In Cole’s mind what is keeping God’s people from true communion with God is the leadership He Himself has ordained. The sad reality is that Christian people still have to deal with their own sinful flesh and this flesh abhors being told what to do by anybody, including God. Just tell your teenager to please clean up his or her bedroom! It is so much easier when we do not really have any authority over us to listen to and obey. So the house-church movement is very appealing to people who want no one to have any spiritual oversight in their lives. Yet God’s Word says:

Obey them that have the rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. Hebrews 13:17

Yes I know there are limits to our obedience; we obey our leaders inasmuch as they are preaching the true Gospel. That is a given. But recognize that we are to obey and we are to submit ourselves to pastoral leadership. This is not the case in the house-church movement because they have no recognized leaders per se. These house-church groups say they are based on Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14:26:

Felicity says the typical format in their network in an Acts 2 style of fellowship–breaking of bread, prayer and praise and worship…Many house-churches offer women an opportunity for full participation in congregational life. (10)

Acts 2 is indeed a historical reality, but nowhere are we told that it is the pattern for how church is to be done.  To begin with in Acts 2 the original (genuine) Apostles were the leaders. Those who were converted came and listened to their teachings (maybe Cole would consider them a filter between God and His people). It was a time of “come as you are an say what you will.” The Apostles taught and made disciples educating them doctrinally. They were raising up leaders to go and lead others in the true Christian faith. Another group in Canada says:

We try to [follow] 1 Corinthians 14:26, which says everyone brings a word [or] prophecy, says Zdero, who wrote a book on the global house-church movement two years ago. ‘Our house-church meetings are like spiritual potlucks, where everyone brings something. (11)

On the surface, apart from the context of 1 Cor. 14 Zdero would seem to be following a biblical pattern for how a church service is to be run. The Apostle Paul is addressing the abuses and carnality of the Corinthians and how their “services” had devolved into self-edification versus the building up of all the people. Naturally both Dale and Zdero do not mention Paul’s admonition in the same letter in which he commends the women to be silent (see 1 Cor. 14:34)!

I have been apart of countless home Bible studies, which in general were great times of fellowship. I have also seen what happens without properly educated leaders and everyone brings out their own subjective interpretation of a text, or shares a dream they think God gave them, or utters an alleged word of prophecy from the Lord. It is nothing but chaos, which is why the Apostle Paul was teaching them on how to bridle in some excess enthusiasm.

As with all excesses the first thing to get tossed aside is the objective truths of the Bible. “Doctrine divideshas long been the cry of the charismatic movement. To which I have responded ‘you bet your sweet bippy it does it is supposed to!” According to Cole he is seeing a melding of various Protestant and charismatic people within house-churches:

He says he has never seen such a strong blending of multiple backgrounds in advancing God’s kingdom. Despite often being divided in the past, both groups must bring their strengths and weaknesses to the table in the house-church movement and acknowledge that their agreements are more important then their issues, Cole says. (12)

In other words, doctrinal issues are divisive and thus doctrinal truth which separates people is deemed unimportant. What is deemed more important than doctrinal truth is whatever can be agreed upon by the diverse group. Ergo, subjective group-think replaces doctrinal foundations. The following adage is true for the house church movement—”If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” In these groups there can be no agreement on the meaning or method of water baptism, there cannot be agreement on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. What can they agree about? Even something as seemingly simple as “we believe Jesus Christ is Lord” is fraught with thunderous doctrinal implications. A Modalist heretic, like T.D. Jakes will declare Jesus is Lord, but does not acknowledge the reality of the Trinity. Even simple statements of belief have at their core doctrinal significance. On the other hand if one is willing to never dig deeper beyond the “God-talk” and get to the meaning and import of the statements made, then one can be happy in such a group. I will coin a new term:

“SHALLOWNESS SELLS  ©

How did this movement start to get traction? That depends on who you ask. I believe the independent spirit and anti-denominational teachings fostered by the Latter Rain movement of the 1940’s had a great deal to do with it. I also believe the lack of feeling connected in the mega-churches led many people to feel like nothing more than a number. Out of 30,000+ members, how many does Joel Osteen know personally? Even in a congregation of 1,000 how many people can actually get time to talk to their pastor? These huge mega-churches try to meet the need of feeling personally connected by having home groups. These home groups undoubtedly led many of the leaders to think “humm, I can do this on my own, apart from the mother church.” Thus man’s natural fallen tendency towards independence and the lack of a true sense of belonging hae gone a long way in forging this house-church movement.

Ken Walker, author of the Charisma article is honest enough to expose the most dangerous inherent weakness within this movement; one that I believe in the long run will send these people back to the stability of traditional orthodox Christianity. Here Walker quotes Jacobsen who supports this movement with reservations:

Likewise, one glaring weakness of house churches is that many are governed by authoritarian leaders. Often there are leaders who couldn’t ‘cut it’ in a traditional church, so they form a group to follow in a smaller setting, Jacobsen says. (14)

Regardless of the setting, someone will rise to leadership. As Walker astutely points out often these leaders were deemed unfit to lead within an orthodox setting. Jacobsen further states:

I would say a lot of house-churches are incredibly unhealthy. They’re led by people who have their ego all twisted up. If it’s manipulative, the smaller the environment the more dangerous it is. (15)

A tremendous amount of spiritual abuse can and does occur in these small group settings. People who join come with the attitude that the traditional church has failed and can easily be led into a “siege” mentality where ‘their little group’ are the only true Christians. Kreider, another semi-proponent of house-churches admits the following:

In the past, Kreider says, house church movement is reactionary towards the traditional orthodox Christian Church. These groups are most often formed by wounded and hurt people who are dysfunctional to some degree. The depth of their dysfunction will determine the level of control or spiritual abuse within their group. Isolated?  Without doubt, there is no one to appeal to beyond the little house-church and its members. This movement is based totally on being independent from organized historic Christianity. That is their whole intention, to do their own thing, in their own way without having to submit to any spiritual authority. Heresy? Well technically heresy really deals with Christology, its more accurate to say faulty biblical interpretation and false doctrines of one sort or another will abound in these groups, since everyone can share their own understanding of the biblical texts.

Discernment Ministries International encounters many Christians who have been sexually abused by church leaders, others who’ve been taken advantage of financially and others who are simply disgusted with the foolishness they heard being taught and practiced. These people have told us that they no longer attend any church and are not planning to go back. They explain that they love Jesus Christ, read His Word, pray and support mission outreaches (like DMI in some cases).

Brothers and sisters if there was ever anyone who had more than enough reasons to throw up his hands and walk away from the “church” it would be me. I can fully empathize with those who have been deeply wounded. I even support taking some time away from church to allow the Holy Spirit to work through God’s Word to begin the healing process, but that process will never come to completion until you get connected back into a solid biblically based congregation.

Staying away from congregational life is simply burying your God-given talents that God gave you to bless your brothers and sisters; not to mention the rich blessings that come from receiving the unique fragrance of Christ that all His sheep emanate.

Let me close by saying there is no perfect church in this life. Some are much better than others and I urge anyone who does not have a local church to not give up. Begin to visit congregations, ask the leaders hard questions, talk to the members and see what (if anything) the Lord is doing in their midst. I am so glad that we did not give up on the church and are happily ensconced in a Traditional confessional Evangelical congregation. Is it a perfect church? Nope. But the people are sincere, the doctrine and practice is as biblical as it gets and our leaders are men of integrity. God ordained the creation of the Church, Jesus is still the Head of the Body of Christ and the Spirit of grace is still working through the proclamation of the Gospel (from pulpits) and sacraments.

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works; Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhort one another; and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25  ♦

Copyright © Robert S. Liichow

 

End Notes:

1. Charisma,  God is Out of the Box,  June 2006, p. 53. Underlining and bold type aded for emphasis.

2. Ibid

3. In one church I was preaching at one women fell out with another sister, both of whom headed committees and neither one spoke to one another for over a year. Yet they came to church regularly, served on their committees which ceased to work together as they previously had done. In short, it was a very ugly mess.

4. Charisma, God is Out of the Box,  2006, p. 53. Underlining and bold type added for emphasis.

5. Ibid p. 54 Underlining added.

6. Ibid. p. 54 Underlining added.

7. Ibid. p. 54

8. Ibid. p. 54 Underlining added.

9. Ibid p. 54 Underlining added.

10. Ibid p. 56 Felicity is “Felicity Dale” a wife of a house-church group in England and author of several books on this topic.

11. Ibid. p. 56

12. Ibid p. 58. Underlining added.

13. The problem with the home group/mini-churches is that they are run by lay people with little to no theological training. They did have a spirit of hospitality which I applaud. At the mega-church my family attended the home groups were organized around felt-needs. There were really no “restrictions” on what group members attended. When a member had a problem or issue they were in theory to go to their home group leader for help since they would probably not get a meeting with one of the several pastors on staff. That’s fine if your home group leader had the capacity to help. In our experience we noted that problems cropped up occasionally when a group would veer off course and teach things our church did not agree with. Each group had more or less autonomy in what they studied. It might have been more effective if these groups simply all focused on the prior sermon and how to apply it to their lives.

14. Charisma, God is Out of the Box, June 2006. P. 60. Underlining and bold type added for emphasis

15. Ibid. p. 60

16. Ibid. p.60 Underlining added.





The Need for Educated Pastors

15 07 2009
Truth Matters Newsletter – September 2005 – Vol. 10 Issue 9 – The Need for Educated Pastors – by Rev. Robert S. Liichow

Discernment Ministries International

The Need for Educated Pastors

“I also must be right up front with you about seminaries and Bible colleges, I believe all they do is produce rubber stamp “ministers” and when the ‘ministers’ are done, it seems most take the stance “Ok, I have absolute truth and nothing can change my mind”, and sadly nothing usually does. Peter never had any “formal” training, but yet Jesus decided to build His church with Peter being the Rock. I believe seminaries and bible colleges hinder people from truly being led of the Spirit.” (EMAIL comments from Shirl on 09-05-05). (1)

Every time I mention the need for pastors to obtain a sound seminary education I am met with the shrill email response of “knowledge puffs up. The above quote echoes what almost all the various proponents of biblical ignorance repeat, that being, the charismatic urban legend regarding the Apostles of Jesus being untrained men, thus people do not need any formal biblical education in order to serve as pastors or Bible teachers.

People who hold such views base them on two major premises. First, they have their own favorite teacher/preacher who has no biblical education and they are “blessed” by their ministry, ergo, a seminary education is unnecessary. Secondly, they look at the following many of these charismatic superstars have and assume that the masses of people and multi-millions of dollars they receive and indicative of the blessing of Almighty God upon the work they are doing in His name. “Dr.” Kenneth E. Hagin who constantly referred to seminaries as “cemeteries,” which always drew a cheap laugh from the audience. (2).

There is a great fear among many leaders, especially in the Word of Faith cult and many charismatic sects concerning their members obtaining any formal biblical education. They know that when they do these individuals will leave their movement, as did my wife and myself. Jesus said that if one would continue in His Word he would know the truth and the truth would set him free (read John 8:32) and that is exactly what happens when the Word of God is properly taught…people get set free. Unfortunately, the opposite is equally true. Where the scripture are taken out of context and taught by biblically ignorant teachers, those who swallow-and-follow what these blind guides teach end up in spiritual bondage, which they eventually perpetuate to others.

Their answer to the lack of sound biblical education is to simply establish their own schools. By doing this these leaders accomplish several things. First, it keeps people in the cult by further indoctrinating them and eventually sending them out as “pastors” over their own congregations. This leads to point number two: it is a way to garner in additional financial resources from their graduates/pastors who send their members to the school they came from. Thirdly, it helps give the cult leaders a degree of legitimacy, after all, they are Presidents of Bible Schools! Here are just a few of the “Bible” schools that some blind guides of renown have started: Spirit Life Bible College — “Dr.” Roberts Liardon; Rhema Bible Training Center — “Dr. “Kenneth E. Hagin; New Life Bible College — Norval Hayes; Jerry Savelle Ministries International Correspondence School — “Dr.” Jerry Savell; Word to the World College — “Dr.” Marilyn Hickey; Supernatural Ministries Training Institute — “Dr” Mark Barclay; School of Ministry — John Arnott. None of these schools possesses accepted accreditation and any legitimate college or seminary does not recognize their graduates diplomas or degrees. Please note that many of the founders of these schools always use the title “Dr.” in front of their names. The FACT is that none of them has an earned doctoral degree; in most cases they were given these titles by another fraud, “Dr.” Oral Roberts. They love to use the title without having to do the work to earn it. They use the title to deceive people into thinking they are biblically educated.

It is important to understand that when you see the superstars of charismatic televangelism you are looking at and listening to individuals who have (in the majority of cases) absolutely no biblical training or formal education whatsoever. Let me cite just a few of the more popular preachers one can see daily on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN): Kenneth & Gloria Copeland; Mr. Benny Hinn; Jesse Duplantis; Kim Clement; Jerry Savelle, Joyce Meyer, Charles Capps; Marilyn Hickey; and Joel Osteen. None of these individuals have any biblical education, most of them have not even attended a secular college or earned a college degree, with the exception of Marilyn Hickey who did earn a teaching degree for primary school if memory serves me correctly. Yet these individuals are deemed as possessing divine insights into the Word of God and are seen by multitudes as being some of the greatest biblical exegetes of the Church!  Millions of people’s spiritual understanding is solely based on what these blind guides teach.

The Biblical Precedent For Educated Pastors

Contrary to popular charismatic thought the Bible is full of exhortations for God’s people especially those in ministry, to be well educated concerning the Holy Scriptures.

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

Study in the Greek means “to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence” (3) We are to mentally exert ourselves in gaining a proper understanding of the Word of God so that we will not be ashamed before our God, rightly handling the word of truth. This implies it is very easy to wrongly handle God’s Word.

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.   James 3:1

When someone stands before the people of God and attempts to teach the Bible they had better know what they are talking about. Pastors who rightly divide the word of truth will be tools of liberation, those who wrongly teach God’s Word become instruments of bondage, often leading God’s people further from the goal of spiritual fruitfulness.

This is nothing new; Peter, regarding some of what the Apostle Paul taught, had to warn his flock of the dangers of being led astray by untrained clergy;

As also in all [his] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest as [they do] also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:16

Let me state quite emphatically that no one has a perfect understanding of the Bible in this life. Every pastor is a sinner, each one of us is fallen and sees through a mirror darkly (see 1 Cor. 13:12). Knowing this fact it should drive those of us in public ministry to our knees all the more beseeching our Lord to grant us His mercy in understanding His Word.

If any man speak, [let him speak] as the oracles of God; if any man minister, [let him do it] as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 4:11

We should approach our education with humility and when we stand before God’s people to speak to do so with godly fear and trembling. It is not a light matter to teach God’s Word. That is why it behooves us to get as much solid training as we can before we attempt to stand in the pastoral office.

Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [therefore] get wisdom; and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

Buy the truth, and sell [it] not; [also] wisdom, and instruction and understanding Proverbs 23:23

With all our getting we are to acquire wisdom, understanding and instruction. When Proverbs 23:23 refers to “buying” it simply means to go acquire truth, wisdom and understanding, and once you have done this, do not let it go (sell I).

Defusing the Myths

“Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” 1 Cor. 8:1

Myth #1   “Brother you are just promoting the teachings of men and we all know that knowledge puff up, but love builds up.”

This charge is often leveled against those of us who expound the value of formal biblical training. The problem with this proof text is that they take it completely out of its context (a little something they would learn not to do if they took a class in hermeneutics). Paul is referring to the issue of eating meat sacrificed to idols.

There was evidently difference of opinion on the subject among the Corinthian Christians. Aspects of the matter come forward not touched on in the Jerusalem Conference to which Paul does not here allude, though he does treat it in Ga. 2: 1-10. There was the more enlightened group who acted on the basis of their superior knowledge about the non-existence of the gods represented by the idols. Ye know that we all have knowledge. This may be a quotation from the letter (Moffatt Lit of N.T., p. 112). Since their conversion to Christ, they know the emptiness of idol-worship. Paul admits that all Christians have this knowledge (personal experience, ), but this problem cannot be solved by knowledge. (4)

Paul was not an anti-intellectual by any means! Nor was he suggesting that love was superior to biblical knowledge. In the context of this passage love is the guide in solving social interactions. In fact he wrote his disciple, Timothy to remember to bring with him the books and especially the parchments when he came to Paul (read 2 Tim. 4:13). While testifying of Christ to Festus, even this petty potentate recognized Paul as a learned man. (read Acts 26:24).

By all historical accounts the Apostle Paul was one of the most highly educated men of his time. True he considered all his education to be of no value when compared to the glory of knowing Jesus Christ (read Phil. 3:8), but the fact still remains that God used Paul, a highly educated man to write approximately two-thirds of the New Testament.

Myth #2   “The disciples of Jesus were ignorant and unlearned men; they did not have any formal biblical education and look how God used them!”

That is the basic statement DMI receives, or as Shirl stated in her email  “Peter never had any “formal” training, but yet Jesus decided to build His church with Peter being the Rock.”  Defusing this myth requires no “formal” training, just a modicum of common sense. The disciples, the twelve specifically, spent three and a half years or around 1,277.5 days with Jesus. They were taught by God the Son personally 7 days a week, no Christmas or Easter breaks. They spent every waking moment with God the Son learning the Word of God from the Living Word! What is more, in preparing His disciples for His departure He gave them a tremendous promise:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.   John 14:28

The disciples were hardly “ignorant and unlearned” men with no formal biblical education. The exact opposite is true. They were personally instructed by two of the three persons of the Trinity. After His resurrection from the dead, a couple of the disciples obtained some more direct instruction in biblical theology.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all, the scriptures the things concerning himself. Luke 24:27

The only people who call the disciples ignorant and unlearned were the Sadducees and temple priests (read Acts 4:13). This was not a statement of fact because as we have seen the Apostles were in reality the best taught and biblically equipped people of all time!

Myth #3    “God used uneducated people in great ways, you’re just exalting knowledge.

Without a doubt, God does use people without formal biblical training in great ways…but not as effective pastors. I would remind our detractors of a few historical facts. Moses was one of the most highly educated men in all of Egypt and God used him to lead the Israelites, delivered the Law unto them, etc. The Bible says the following of Solomon:

And Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 1 Kings 4:30.

Daniel and his cohorts were proven to be ten times wiser than all the wise men in Cyrus’ empire (read Dan. 1:20), the greatest one of its day. God has always used highly educated men to move His plan forward. I could mention men such as Justin Martyr, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards and a host of other theological luminaries all of whom have added to the Church.

DMI and other Apologetic ministries are not “exalting knowledge,” but we are quick to add that there is no premium on ignorance either! It is really very simple; if you want to become a doctor you have to attend medical school, a veterinarian must go to veterinary school and even your barber (hopefully) attended Barber College. If we demand expertise from our plumbers, electricians, doctors, architects and pilots how much more should those in sacred ministry desire to be as highly trained as they can be? I am truly perplexed over why God’s people do not expect as much from their spiritual leaders as they do from their plumbers.

It is not about gaining “head knowledge” it is about being able to skillfully and accurately teach God’s Word to His people so that they may apply it correctly to their lives and bear fruit that glorifies their heavenly Father.

The reason I am so passionate about the need for good education is because I came from a background where it was not valued at all. As a charismatic extremist I served as a pastor and teacher for fifteen years before I went to seminary. Was my ministry invalid? No, not really, but I was ineffective in sharing God’s Word in its context. I was guilty of teaching heretical doctrines at times, because I was not equipped with the tools/knowledge of how to properly interpret the scripture thus I did not know when I was being fed spiritual garbage by other well intentioned heretics. (Hagin, Copeland, Savelle, Hickey, et al.) so I parroted what my “anointed” mentors taught me.

When my wife and I went to Michigan Theological Seminary our eyes were opened and it was if scales fell from our eyes with each course we took. I readily admit to being far from perfect, nor do I have perfect doctrinal understanding… and because I recognize this it has caused me to become a life long student of God’s Word. The more I learn, the more I realize how little I truly know and the hungrier I get to draw closer and closer to my Lord through His Word.

Not everyone needs to attend seminary in order to serve the Lord, that is a given, but I do encourage all of my brothers and sisters in Christ to avail themselves of every avenue open to them to learn about our Lord through in-depth study of His Word. There may even be a good (orthodox) seminary in your area and you might consider auditing some classes on systematic theology, church history or hermeneutics. Most seminaries charge very little to folks who just want to “sit in” without getting the college credit for the courses. It would be time well spent. Let me close this article out with the words of our Lord Jesus:

Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditchMark 15:14      ♦

Copyright © 2005  Robert S. Liichow

End Notes

1. Shirl emailed DMI to complain about our article on Mr. Joel Osteen in which I mentioned the fact that he had absolutely no biblical education whatsoever and does not see the need to have one.

2. It is amazing that a man who made fun of seminaries and called people with Ph.D’s “Post-Hole-Diggers” would accept and use the title “Dr.” in front of his name and in his later publications. He did not mind being called “Dr. Hagin,” even though it was an honorary degree bestowed by his partner in crime, Mr. Oral Roberts, who have given out fake degrees to almost every major charismatic minister on television today.

3. Obtained from http://www.blueletterbible.org/tmp_dir/words/4/1125927988-3573.html

4. Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures, BibleWorks software ver. 4.0.035