*This testimony was previously posted on THE WORD on the Word of Faith GroupBlog on March 21 2015 under my middle name:Eric: https://thewordonthewordoffaithinfoblog.com/2015/03/21/ex-word-of-faith-testimony-of-eric-its-not-about-me/ I have since updated it*
A short while after I was born again (early 2013), I started to attend a church that adhered to the Word of Faith movement’s (henceforth WOF) doctrines and teachings. I was unaware of what it was, as I am sure that many Christians do not know what WOF is. At its core the WOF movement is man-centred not Christ-centred.The doctrines and teachings tickle the ears of the listeners, it is not about “What can I do for GOD?” but rather “What can God do for ME?”, God is a means to an end.In a sense WOF is a mainstream version of Christian Science, it shares similar concepts. In addition it bears New-Age elements, which is no surprise considering that it originates from the meta-physical cults. WOF also carries elements of animatism.Here is a short overview of its key doctrines and characteristics (fortunately not all of these doctrines were taught at the church I attended):
- Men are “little gods” as men are created in God’s image. “Proof-texts”: Psalm 82:6 and Genesis 1:27.
- We can speak things into existence like God. Positive confession causes good things to happen, speaking negatively causes bad things to happen. (This is very similar to the teachings of Christian Science, in which our thoughts influence our surroundings and lives.) “Proof-texts”: Proverbs 11:2 and Romans 4:17
- Faith is the substance with which we create things.(Faith in this sense can be likened to “mana”, which is an impersonal supernatural force, thus in its nature this teaching is closely linked with animatism)
- The KJV Bible is the preferred Bible, for with it they can back up their bad theology: Hebrews 11:1-3 (They reason that faith is a substance as per the KJV translation, hence their preference of the KJV), Romans 4:17 (As in WOF Theology, men are “little gods”, they too possess abilities that God possesses)
- Stress upon “anointing” and that some are more “anointed”. “Anointing” passes from person to person like mana. The most “anointed” pastor can bestow blessings by laying hands upon other pastors or members of the congregation.
- Jesus died spiritually and took upon Himself the nature of Satan on the cross.
- Jesus was born again in hell, thus becoming the first born again man.
- God is not sovereign, He has no power on earth unless man permits it. He limited Himself when he gave man dominion over the earth. Adam himself was then tricked out of his dominion over the earth by Satan and thus Satan became the “god” of this world.
- The death of Jesus at the cross was not merely for the salvation of sinful man, but man regained his dominion through the sacrifice of Christ.
- God is a means to an end, our faith forces Him to do what we want. God is a divine butler.
As prosperity theology (the prosperity gospel) is often associated with WOF, here are several of prosperity theology’s peculiarities:
- Teaches that it is God’s will that all believers be healthy, wealthy and successful.
- Materialism and covetousness are encouraged.
- The most wealthy, healthy and successful person is the most favoured by God and has the most faith, thus if one is poor, unhealthy or unsuccessful they must have no faith and their salvation is in question.
- Lack of teachings on suffering and self-denial.
- Teachings that Jesus and His disciples were wealthy.
- Believers sow “seeds” via sums of money to make deposits into our “heavenly bank account” which comes back in multiplied blessings.
- Focus upon Old Testament rather than the New Testament.
- Stress upon necessity of tithing.
- Minimisation of the sinfulness of man and thus man’s need for salvation.
(Fortunately not all of these doctrines were taught in our congregation. The most notable of these doctrines which were taught in our congregation were positive and negative confession and that God needs man’s permission to intervene on earth. While not explicitly taught in our congregation, our pastor believed the “little gods” doctrine.)
Consequently much of my theology was subtly tainted with false teachings. I am however thankful for the fact that the pastor at this church encouraged us to read the Bible daily which along with God’s grace brought about significant spiritual growth rather quickly. But to continue, I being young in the faith was unaware and vulnerable, not yet able to discern between good and evil, between true and false doctrine. While many of those in the WOF are closely tied to the prosperity gospel in that they stress the importance of health and wealth, this church congregation which I attended was softer, more subtle, this church’s focus was upon blessings and success. It placed blessings above contentment and fellowship with God.
This congregation belonged to RCCG-The Redeemed Christian Church of God, which is a church from Nigeria. I mention its name so that other Christians know to avoid it. I should have realised that something was off when the General Overseer of the church: Enoch Adeboye, during a special worship service declared that those that he was addressing in the congregation would not die poor among other things. This is not something a mere man can guarantee, only God can, if He wills. At the time it seemed strange but I paid it little attention.Before we became fully committed to RCCG, a brother warned us and said that RCCG was a prosperity gospel church. I heeded not his warnings for I though “what could the harm be?” We didn’t know what the prosperity gospel was. We then departed from that congregation at this point. It was then that we experienced what I imagine Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and all cults experience, we were isolated. In typical cult-like fashion we were segregated from other congregations and discouraged from going to other services and other churches. We were kept so busy that we didn’t have time to attend other congregations or meet with brothers and sisters from other churches. I was the secondary book keeper, I recorded attendance and offerings, I was also the drummer in the worship ensemble. My brother was a singer and he prepared slides for the service. We grew close to the other members, though we were a small congregation. I had no clue that anything was wrong, we loved it there. We admired the pastor greatly, he was a very charismatic preacher and he was very wise. I cannot recall when exactly it happened, but my biological brother who glory be to God is also my spiritual brother, mentioned that the characteristics of our church seemed to fit the bill for the description of the prosperity theology, however I turned a blind eye to it and was in denial and assumed that it was unimportant. Things seemed fine at first, but gradually we went further and further into unfamiliar teachings such as positive confession and Biblical “promises”. We would take a piece of scripture out of context that applied to what we wanted and pray with that scripture, because with our mentality God had to do whatever He said in His word. We butchered Scripture. As we know that God cannot lie, He would be lying if He didn’t fulfil what He had promised in His word, right? Well, though we know that God does not have to do anything, this was our logic.In addition we were taught that our words were so powerful that we should never speak negatively, lest our words cause something bad to happen and bring misfortune upon ourselves. We were encouraged to speak scripture at our problems and speak positively, so that something good would happen. All of these strange teachings came at once. Eisegesis or the twisting of Scripture was certainly the source of these weird teachings. One man had even twisted Romans 4:17 to imply that man can speak things into existence just like God.
A few months later, my brother brought the topic up again, this time with great concern. He shared some scripture with me:
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
Ironically we had been fasting intensely at the time that this occurred, it was a church wide fast which would last for two months and was rather strict, we couldn’t eat anything until 6:00 pm. My brother explained to me, how what we had done was the opposite of what Jesus had done when He was tempted by Satan, we had commanded the stones to become bread and had the nerve to lift ourselves to Jesus’ position. We had attempted to call things that are not as though they were. We had miserably failed that test. In addition my brother mentioned, that the Lord had made clear to him that He was not a dog, at our beck and call and that what we were doing was wrong, it had to stop. We had not feared God, but simply demanded what we wanted from Him without reverence. We were selfish and greedy, we were focusing on what God could do for us, not for what we could do for God. We had fallen for Satan’s ploy. When the startling revelation was presented before my eyes, I realised how grave our situation was, how off course we had gone. I had completely devalued my salvation and I was devastated by that. After my eyes had been opened I came to truly appreciate the words of Jesus in Mark 8:36 “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” A startling thought dawned upon me, my salvation could be at stake because of false teachings. It was a horrible feeling, I had completely dishonoured God and I had to repent for it, we wanted to make it right with Him immediately and so we did.
Through a couple of videos on Youtube we found out that our church was teaching WOF doctrine. Every night for a few weeks my brother and I would talk about the subject and we always came to the same conclusion, we couldn’t stay in this church, our salvation could depend upon it. We attempted to address the issue with our pastor. We thought that it had been a recent occurrence, however the church had always been WOF, yet we had not yet realised it. We spent a lot of time talking with our pastor in hopes that we would come to a conclusion that we could agree on something, that we could convince him that there was something wrong. He tried many times to plant seeds of doubt and would say something like “You have to consider the possibility that you could be wrong.” Nope, not this time. We ended up frustrated, spending so much time trying to convince him and addressing our concerns but they were falling on deaf ears and well, frankly speaking, he knew the Bible better than we did, so we couldn’t contend with him. In addition there was extensive use of logical fallacies to shut down our concerns: he used a lot of straw man arguments and ad hominem attacks, this just ended up leaving us angry and frustrated with him, as he would either attack us and our character or misrepresent our concerns and our arguments instead of addressing them. The issue was never addressed. He would also say that it was spiritual attack to prevent us from going to the upcoming worker’s conference in Poland. But it was not about going to the conference, but about the Word of Faith movement, which was indeed a cause for concern. I lost my trust in our pastor and everything that he said was to be viewed with close scrutiny, I had been deceived once, I did not want to be deceived again. I could no longer listen to him preach. My brother and I always came to the same conclusion but we could never approach it in the way we intended. We always ended up wimping out, as a result it was a long process and it dragged on for so long that it wore us out.
By this point, I had been assigned as the Youth Leader for my region, so I could not back out of going to the RCCG worker’s conference in Warsaw, Poland (April 23rd-26th 2014). I had attempted to pull out for fear of poor performance in school but I was not allowed to back out. While en route to our destination, the Lord spoke to my brother and told him that he could not go, for He had been warning my brother for a long time. Thus at our first stop my brother bought a bus ticket and went back home, but before leaving he put in his resignation. We experienced many snags along the way. My pastor and a dear friend were so intent on going to the conference to get a blessing from the General Overseer (GO). We did arrive at our destination but when we got there I was disappointed by the messages. They were just hot air and vanity about success, anointings and blessings. I was bored and it did nothing for me, it was simply not edifying. I was visibly distressed and had the opportunity to speak with another pastor about my concerns and he tried to help put me at ease but it didn’t help. The GO made statements and declarations that he could not possibly guarantee such as “You will never fail again”. The GO’s wife spoke such things as “Where there is no light there is no abundance” and “Use these offerings for Your glory and bless us in return” I do not recall exactly whom said it, but someone said something along the lines of “The more that you give the longer your new song will be.” (The conference was titled “A New Song”) In addition they took two offerings back to back (The second to thank God for what He was going to do). I even remember that one of the ushers collecting offerings was wearing a gold watch. It was clear that they were fleecing the sheep. The fruit at our congregation had been tainted but as I got to the root, I found out that the whole tree itself was rotten, this was full on prosperity theology.
People were singing and dancing with all their might, now I know not the intentions of the heart, but rather I saw it as a bunch of people trying to earn God’s favour so that He would bless them (This wasn’t surprising when many would praise God one moment and then take His name in vain the next). It seemed like people were trying to bribe God. I would argue that this was what people were doing, not because they loved God but because they wanted blessings, God was more of a means to an end. I remember that the GO even had the congregation jumping for blessings and the congregation complied, it was obscene. At the same time I would say that many within the movement truly do love the Lord but are sincerely misled.
Throughout I was doubting whether or not something was wrong. I didn’t know any longer. I kept praying to the Lord that He would let me know, that He would give me a sign, anything. I got my answer on the last day of the conference and it was explosive. An evangelist named Artur Pawlowski (he runs a ministry named Street Church in Calgary, AB, Canada, but he is originally from Poland) rebuked the pastors and the congregation saying such things as “You are treating Jesus as a vending machine”, “You get excited about blessings but not about saving souls”. It was at that moment during the rebuke that I realised that God had indeed answered my prayer. At that point I knew that I had to resign and leave RCCG. Looking back, this was like a rescue mission executed by the Lord to bring me out of RCCG. The congregation and pastors were furious with Artur. I must have been the only one who was relieved and happy, with a smile creeping upon my face. I feared that I was the only one who realised that something was wrong, it was at that moment that I realised that my suspicions were correct. The rebuke was the one thing that I took away from that conference that was edifying, that was a man that feared God more than man. So, I ended up resigning, but our pastor agreed to address whether or not our church was involved with the prosperity gospel. We were young and did not know the appropriate protocol for such a case as we were in.
We had collectively read some articles one of which was written by John Piper (I can’t remember which article it was) and the other was by David Schrock on 9marks.org (https://9marks.org/article/journalsofter-prosperity-gospel-more-common-you-think/). Our dear friend and the pastor didn’t want to read the John Piper article as he was a Calvinist (understandably as reformed theology has a much higher view of God, a God who can and does do whatever He wills and doesn’t need anyone’s permission to do so. One who cannot be bossed around, blackmailed into giving us what we desire or have things demanded from Him). The dear friend had even gone so far as to say that there was more truth in the Book of Mormon than in John Piper’s article. This friend was also under the impression that one could follow a false teacher and would still be blessed by God. This was understandable as pastors were regarded as above scrutiny (and therefore discernment was discouraged):
REBELLION AGAINST CHURCH AUTHORITY FORBIDDEN
Rebellion against Church Ministers is against the Will of God. Those who rebelled against Moses did not escape unpunished – Num 12:1-10; Num. 16:1-4,32. The Bible teaches that we should obey our Spiritual leaders and submit to them – Heb 13:17; Joshua 1:16-18.
My brother and I even compiled a list of our concerns (they were not addressed). We held a church meeting, however the pastor avoided our key concerns which were related to WOF and instead he focused the discussion upon the topic of money. He steered clear of what was wrong and straw manned the discussion and consequently deceived those who were in attendance. Our concerns were not addressed and we had been lied to. In hindsight, the correct approach to the situation would have been to rebuke the pastor in front of everyone. We had no chance to speak nor express our concerns with the congregation. Every time that we spoke to our pastor about our concerns, even if it was about a false teaching he would back it up with scripture. We were always “confused”, “under the influence of Satan”, “too young in the faith”.
It was a mess, things were falling apart before our eyes, the rug had been torn from beneath our feet. We were no longer on solid ground but had completely lost our footing. We had none to turn to but the Lord, thanks be to Him for that. It came to the point where we left, we had been so involved with the church that we kind of came out with almost nothing and we had to build it up all over again. I imagine that this is but a fraction of what Jehovah’s Witnesses experience when they are “disfellowshipped”. The whole thing was an awful experience. At the time it was very painful. Yet our previous congregation awaited us. Coming out was such relief for our brothers and sisters there, who had realised that we were involved in something which we should have not been involved with. It turned out that the pastor was praying for us for months to come out and he was very glad to see us come out of it. It was a time in the wilderness. We had to tear everything down and build up again just like Josiah when he cleansed the temple. Every part of our theology was in question. So we decided to avoid what other people taught and to focus just on God’s word alone. We did not want to come into bondage again nor be misled. We realised how much we had sacrificed. I hadn’t really been helping people nor had I really been evangelising either. I had become selfish, I had become a hypocrite and self-righteous and I lacked love. I had become a Pharisee. While I feel as if I have lost friends, I was not shunned by friends or family, rather I withdrew myself from them. My experiences within the WOF movement left me disillusioned and upset. The Lord had drawn my brother and I out of the mire. I lost community, friends and I even stepped down from a regional Youth Leader position. Truly I gave it up for Christ, it is in times like this that we realise where our loyalties truly lie. Are we willing to give up what is convenient to us or are we willing to forsake it all, deny ourselves and carry our crosses to follow Jesus? Although there was much pain and loss in that season, it has helped my discernment and understanding of the Scriptures immensely. It is in times when men fail us and betray us that we realise that only one never fails and that is our Lord.
Coming out of Word of Faith I remember the fear and conviction that I experienced at the realisation that my brother and I had fallen right into Satan’s trap and demanded things from God, there was no reverence towards Him nor fear of Him. How could there be if one were to demand things from the Creator of the universe, I had treated Him as if He owed me something, yet He had already given me the most wonderful gift, in that God the Son had borne my sin and died on that Roman cross, was buried and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) so that I could be reconciled to the Triune God. Christ had redeemed me through His own blood and had saved me from the wrath to come and it hadn’t been good enough for me. Even after the way I had treated Him, He still rescued me from this blasphemous movement that I had gotten involved with. Through it all the Lord was with me and He has given me a much deeper appreciation for His grace. Let this be a warning, never devalue your salvation as this is the greatest gift that God has given us, one which He is not obliged to grant us. Yet in spite of the fact that we deserve hell, out of His grace, love and mercy He has given us what we do not deserve and has redeemed us through the shed blood of Christ for the remission of our sins.
At the end of the day, we need to check everything by Scripture. We need to know what we believe and why. Doctrine is extremely important and must never be neglected. Ignorance is not an excuse, as we have already been warned about false doctrine in Scripture. The excuse of ignorance will not fly when we give an account of our lives before Almighty God. I dare not be willingly ignorant in matters of core doctrine. We cannot afford to be misled. As a result of having been misled I was prompted to study the core doctrines of our faith very intensely and seriously, I spent a lot of time in the word and listening to sermons by Dr. Walter Martin, as a result I learned how to defend the essentials of the faith from Scripture in addition to knowing how to approach cultists with the Gospel and refute their false doctrines. As a result I could finally say that I know why I believe what I believe. And I learned the importance of context, as many of these false doctrines arise from isolated verses which have been either misunderstood or purposely twisted. Context usually clears up the confusion and refutes error.
It is one thing to claim to hold to historical Biblical orthodoxy and another to be able to defend it. Not only do we need to hold to Sola Scriptura (the Bible as our sole infallible rule of faith and practice), but also to Tota Scriptura (all of Scripture). This means that we must be ready and willing to subject everything and everyone (even our pastor) to Scripture rightly handled.
Soli Deo Gloria,