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10 Ways the Word of Faith Movement Went Wrong.


Joseph Mattera
Joseph Mattera
As a product of the Word of Faith movement in the early 1980s, I will forever be indebted to the books and teachings of Kenneth Hagin Sr., Smith Wigglesworth, John G. Lake, T.L. Osborn and the like. These were holy men of integrity who turned the world upside down with their faith and teaching.
I learned how to pray for the sick by reading Osborn’s book Healing the Sick, and I learned how to resist the devil by reading Hagin’s The Believer’s Authority. In reading many biographies of Smith Wigglesworth, I have always been challenged by his utter consecration to Christ and to walk in the light of His Word whether in or out of the pulpit. I shudder to think where I would be right now if not for being influenced by these men and this movement.
That being said, as I continued to grow in the Lord and His Word, I saw several flaws in the teaching and in the movement in general. This article is not meant to dampen anyone’s faith but to bring a more balanced picture of the ways of God—especially since many have been discouraged in this movement because they did not understand the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) and did not have a theology that included certain things that challenged their faith.
I have found that whenever we preach or emphasize one truth of God’s Word to the exclusion of the others, it becomes a mixture and produces both good and bad fruit. For example, this has happened with the hypergrace movement, as well as the view of hyperfaith. From an overemphasis on outward holiness, we get legalism. And we come into a form of fatalism when we emphasize God’s sovereignty at the expense of human responsibility.
However, I will go on record saying that I would much rather be with people attempting to walk in faith and victory than be hanging out with depressed saints filled with unbelief and doubt. Also, like most other movements, the Word of Faith movement restored to the body of Christ a biblical truth that was neglected by the church—and in doing so, overemphasized it. But after several years, more balance comes as folks like myself “eat the meat and spit out the bones.” Also, I believe that Brother Hagin never approved of some of the excesses that came out of the faith camp—especially regarding the unbalanced teachings on prosperity that came from some of his more radical followers.
The following are some of the flaws of the Word of Faith movement from my perspective (and I realize these are generalizations that don’t fit exactly every person classified as “Word of Faith”):
1. They preach a “rights centered” gospel rather then a “stewardship centered” gospel.
Perhaps influenced by our Jeffersonian heritage of individual rights in America, the way the gospel is applied to individuals in the Word of Faith movement is based on personal rights in Christ. Although this is partially true, the New Testament balances our rights in Christ with our responsibility that goes along with these rights.
For example, in Deuteronomy 8:18, we learn that God gave believers “power to get wealth, that His may establish His covenant.” This passage clearly teaches us the primary purpose of prosperity is for the kingdom—not only for our individual comfort and pleasure. Many in the faith movement used to “claim” houses and cars and attempt to use their faith merely for their own individual needs, which, in and of itself, goes against our call to seek first His kingdom (Matt. 6:33) as a prerequisite for our individual needs and wants being fulfilled.
2. Their dispensational belief precludes the role and importance of the Old Covenant in the New Covenant age.
I heard Brother Hagin brag several times in his teaching sessions that he did not read the Old Covenant because we have a new and better covenant now in Christ. The challenge with that teaching is that he did not understand the relevance and role of the moral and civic law of God found from Exodus to Deuteronomy—especially the Ten Commandments that were repeated over and over again either exactly or in principle by the New Testament writers. Without the moral law of God, we have no standard for holiness and will lack the conviction of sin the moral law gives as our standard of holiness and ethics.
Furthermore, Hagin and others like him would only quote the Old Testament when convenient—when it comported to his view of faith. For example, he would quote Exodus 23:25, where God told the Jews He would take sickness from them, but he neglected to also teach that in order to walk in health, they had to follow the strict dietary code as found in Leviticus 11. Thus, healing for the Jews included not only claiming a promise of God but also staying away from unclean food. (In my opinion, walking in physical health also involves having a healthy diet and lifestyle—or else we are tempting God by intentionally violating His natural laws and then expecting Him to heal us.)
3. They have a semi-gnostic dualism regarding their view of God.
Word of Faith preachers have a simple view of God: Everything that is good is of God, and everything bad is from the devil.
While I totally agree God is a good God, sometimes He has to bring judgment or allow things to take place that in our natural minds may be interpreted as bad. What do Word of Faith preachers do with passages like Isaiah 45:7, in which God says He not only brings prosperity but also disaster? Or 2 Samuel 24:13, where God told King David to choose one of three calamities He would bring upon the land of Israel as punishment for his sin? Or Amos 3:6, which clearly says God sometimes brings disaster to a city? What about the book of Job, where God allows Satan to afflict Job physically with boils as well as bring disaster to other areas of his life?
I remember Brother Hagin teaching that Job doesn’t count in the New Testament because Job 42:10 says God turned the captivity of Job and that Luke 4:18 says Jesus set the captives free. That would all be fine, except for the fact that the book of James carries the life and story of Job into the New Testament for the church age—specifically, James 5:11 offers a lesson for us regarding God’s ways and dealings. (Also, without the book of Job, we have nothing to say to Christians who unexpectedly lose a loved one or experience great personal challenges and loss. Job is comforting to me as a pastor because it shows me that God is sovereign over all things—in both the good and the bad—even when it is hard to explain and understand in the natural. Furthermore, God never gave Job an explanation for why He allowed disaster to strike.)
Finally, what do Word of Faith teachers say about Revelation 2:22-23, where Jesus says that He will cast people on a bed of sickness and even strike people dead? This does not go along with the simple dualism they teach.
Now, I will be the first to say that God’s general will, as revealed in the Gospels, is for divine health (see also 3 John 2) and that, in general, He always wants us healthy in spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23) and that Jesus came for us to have an abundant life (John 10:10). But those in the Word of Faith movement have such a narrow view of the Word of God that they do not have any explanations for mysterious things that happen to us that challenge our faith. It is not always true that something bad happened to a person because they had sin (John 9:1-3) or that they didn’t get healed or calamity came to them because they lacked faith. Of course, the instance where Jesus brought sickness and death in Revelation 2:22-23 had to do with disobedience, which took people out from under the covering of the Lord (Ps. 91:1).
In summary, it is still generally God’s will to bring us health and prosperity in the context of obedience to His Word.
4. Positive confession sometimes leads to dishonesty and superficial Christianity.
I have been around many believers who are afraid to be honest and admit they are struggling with their faith. This brings people into bondage and even a form of superficial religion. Some believers are like robots—when you ask them how they are doing, they routinely say, “I am blessed and highly favored!” However, I know some of these people, and they are merely trying to keep a positive confession even though their world is falling apart.
Now, I do believe in speaking the Word of God to our challenging circumstances and not giving in to negative talk, but that is different from what James 5:16 tells us when he exhorts believers to confess their faults one to another. Positive confession is good and biblical (Prov. 18:21) as long as it doesn’t stop a person from getting pastoral counsel and being honest with fellow believers when they need prayer.
5. Their view on prosperity is only based on giving.
While it is true that the Bible teaches we reap what we sow and that if we give, it will be given back to us (Luke 6:38), one of the flaws of the Word of Faith movement is that it only teaches people one side of prosperity. I believe the church needs to equip the saints not only to give but also to get, as well as how to manage what they get  while investing and saving for the future.
When we only teach the saints how to give, we limit the amount of creativity and blessing some people can experience—because without combining giving with hard work, education and an understanding of how to manage and create a budget, many folks will continue in cycles of poverty even though they may experience elements of God’s provision based on their giving. God can only bless in proportion to our ability to manage what He gives us!
In poor countries, I have found that when the only solution presented to the people for breaking poverty is “giving to the church,” the only person who becomes prosperous is the preacher. In the kingdom of God, the church is called to have a more empowering and holistic approach in regard to prosperity and breaking cycles of poverty.
6. They have faith in their faith as a principle rather than it emanating out of the person of Christ.
I have found in many instances where this movement presented faith almost as an impersonal force, like the law of gravity. This led to teachings like “having faith in your faith.” When this is taught, it can disconnect faith from intimacy with the Lord. The more I get to know a person, the more I can trust them. Faith is not a force. It is a result of growing in simple trust based on growing in an experiential knowledge of the Lord. Faith is relational. It is not an impersonal force.
7. Some pastors have modeled their church preaching after these “specialists” in the body. 
Brother Hagin, T.L. Osborn, Smith Wigglesworth and the like were not typical pastors called to oversee a flock. Thus, they were able to preach based on their primary assignment, which was faith and healing.
The challenge is, many pastors who don’t understand this began to mimic these great men of God and attempted to build congregations only around those three themes—faith, prosperity and healing. That is OK if you are a traveling teacher or evangelist, but a congregation needs to have a balanced diet of the Word that includes the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). A pastor needs to preach on healing but also holiness; faith but also tests and trials; moving mountains but also marriage; giving financially but also stewardship and hard work. I love preaching on faith and healing, but as a pastor I often had to preach subjects I really did not have a great passion for but knew others needed to hear to fully mature in the Lord.
8. It can put guilt and bondage on believers.
I have heard of many people who walk around in guilt because they are not healed or because they are struggling financially. In some cases, I have even heard of famous faith preachers who checked into a hospital under a different name so word would not get out that they were sick and under a doctor’s care!
We need to have a culture of faith in our churches, but we also have to engender a culture of humility, honesty and brokenness—admitting that we don’t always walk in victory over sin and sickness as well as making allowances for mystery The fact is, we don’t always understand why certain things happen to believers. (See again the book of Job.)
9. It can produce independent, narcissistic believers.
When the Word of Faith movement went from a stewardship-centered gospel to a rights-centered gospel, it also attracted many self-focused people—people who used God as an excuse for their lavish lifestyles and who frowned upon those living in simplicity. Unfortunately, this teaching often appealed to the narcissistic tendencies in all of us, and many large ministries were built more upon the American Dream of having a nice house and a nice car than upon taking up our cross and following Jesus. Jesus said in Luke 14:33 that we have to lose everything in order to be His disciple, but many in this movement only focus on what we gain. Truly, you can’t be resurrected until you first go to the cross!
10. It is not connected to the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:28.
Last but not least, the Word of Faith movement did not go far enough. Instead of limiting faith to merely believing for individual healing and health, the Word of God teaches that our faith should also transform whole cities and subdue kingdoms! (See Isaiah 61:4 and Hebrews 11:33.) The gospel is a blueprint to disciple and baptize whole people groups, not just individuals (Matt. 28:19-20). It not only deals with individual sinners but systemic evil. The Word of Faith movement, though, brings faith for individual victory but doesn’t say much about corporate victory. However, regarding the community of believers, faith is also based on the corporate culture and anointing of a congregation. (First Corinthians 11:27-32 and Hebrews 3-4 teach that whole congregations can be negatively affected by a culture of unbelief or disobedience.)
The Word of Faith movement in general separated the gospel from the kingdom and, in doing so, made it more about individual prosperity then societal transformation. When you separate the gospel from the kingdom, you tend to become more self-focused because the Good News gets disconnected from our responsibility to steward the earth. With the gospel of the kingdom, we believe in individual, congregational and societal transformation!
Finally, I believe with all of my heart that there was more good than bad in the Word of Faith movement and that it was God’s intention that  biblical faith for the supernatural be restored back to the church. All of us only know in part and see through a glass darkly—even the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:9,12). Consequently, it often takes years for the body of Christ to discern how to have balance when old truths are restored. One of the keys to life is balance—and biblical balance cannot come until we attempt to embrace the whole counsel of God!
Source: CHARISMA NEWS.
Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can read more on josephmattera.org or connect with him on Facebook or Twitter.

The Five Signs of a Backslidden Heart.


backslidden woman
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

I will never forget the words spoken one night by the pastor of the church in which I was saved. He said, “A person may take 20 years to backslide” (referring to a complete apostasy from the Lord). This is a sobering thought.

You grow old gradually. Your hair turns gray gradually. You can backslide just as gradually. Before you know it, you have wasted your whole life.

Where is the present course of your life taking you? Are you moving toward the Lord or away from Him? If you continued forever on this path, would you wind up in heaven or in hell?

MY SECRET BACKSLIDING At one time in my walk–in the late 1970s and early 1980s–I began to backslide, though all the while I claimed to be growing and maturing. My prayer time and devotional reading of the Word decreased. My fasting all but stopped; my witnessing dropped off. I virtually never took authority over the devil. (I really couldn’t have done much anyway!)

I had less and less control over the flesh. I fell in areas I had never fallen in before. Don’t get me wrong: I never touched another woman or misused ministry funds or stole anything. But I slipped up a few times in ways I never had before. I even became addicted to video games!

I felt the presence and joy of the Lord less frequently and less abundantly, yet I preached with fervor and remained an absolutely committed believer in Jesus. I was engaged in many good and even sacrificial works–still, I was backsliding!

I will be eternally grateful to my sister-in-law who, without my knowledge, helped to pray me back on fire. How I praise God for miraculously intervening–for planting the first seeds on New Year’s Day morning 1982, lovingly rebuking me in March of that year, awakening me with a vision of a spiritual outpouring in May, showing me how far away I was drifting in September, calling me to lay everything on the altar in October, and then sending a visitation November 21, 1982. I have not been the same since.

OUTWARD VITALITY, INWARD DECLINE Tragically, we can have all the outward trappings of Christian zeal and service without having a vibrant relationship with the Lord. According to New Testament scholar Robert Mounce, “At Ephesus, hatred of heresy and extensive involvement in the works appropriate to faith had allowed the fresh glow of love for God and one another to fade.”

In other words, wrote Mounce in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdmans), “Every virtue carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction.” So, it could be that our very zeal for truth and purity coupled with our penchant for hard work and sacrifice could rob us of our love both for God and man.

In Revivals of Religion, Charles Finney asserted that it is possible for a person to be active in Christian service and maintain forms of religion and
obedience to God–even with a backslidden heart. “But,” a troubled believers asks, “if I can seem to be on fire for God, keeping busy for the Lord and staying true to His Word, and yet be backsliding at the same time, how can I really know the state of my heart?”

A SELF-EXAMINATION Let me describe for you some tangible tests by which you can examine yourself. There’s no reason to be in the dark when it comes to your own spiritual life. Ask yourself:

Has my personal devotion to Jesus decreased? Perhaps your desire for intimate times with the Lord has waned, especially for prayer and worship, and your once-ravenous hunger for the Word is now lacking. (John G. Lake says backsliding begins with lessening hunger for the Word, while Leonard Ravenhill claims backsliding begins with decreasing prayer.)

Do you love Jesus today as you once loved Him before? You may enjoy the forms of worship–good music, singing, dancing, being part of an exciting corporate experience–but what about the object of worship? What about the Lord Himself?

You may have a message or a burden. Theology may intrigue you. The ministry may consume you. But all these things are mere idols and distractions in comparison with coming into God’s presence and fellowshiping with Him. You grow and bear fruit only to the extent that you abide in the Vine (see John 15:1-8).

Has my personal satisfaction in God decreased? Do you feel the need for things other than God to gain fulfillment? Are you increasingly seeking social orientation in place of private devotions? Do you desire recognition and acceptance by persons of flesh and blood?.

The Word says, “The desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful” (Mark 4:19, NIV), and “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

At one time promotion on the job was not your primary source of satisfaction, nor was a big paycheck, a nice home, a new car, a special boyfriend or girlfriend, an exciting sports event, or even a happy family. (Yes! Spouses and children can take away from your delighting in the Lord above all.) Walking with God used to satisfy you.

Does it still satisfy you? Fully and completely? If not, you have left your first love.

Has my passion for spiritual work decreased? This will be reflected by a decreased burden for the lost (both at home and abroad), a decreased burden for revival (often replaced by good works, and more subtly by good spiritual programs), and a penchant for respectability in place of radicality. Holy zeal makes you uncomfortable, and you are becoming ashamed of Jesus and His reproach.

Witnessing used to come naturally, but now you almost avoid the subject. You simply don’t care about the ones Jesus died for. Or maybe you don’t fully believe that they are lost. Unbelief is always a result of backsliding somewhere, somehow. Do you find yourself spiritually numb?

And what about revival and visitation? How would you feel if the Spirit fell in power? (Not necessarily in some cultured–and “containable”–way, but with intensity and suddenness and upheaval.) Are you willing to let Him be in control–of the service, of the leadership, of you? Or have you become satisfied with a comfortable seat in the theater while the show itself never goes on? Beware of a powerless spiritual sophistication. The world admires it, but it has no teeth.

Have my standards of holiness become lower? Perhaps you have permitted things into your life, family or congregation that would have been unthinkable when you were on fire. You now find you are able to engage in certain activities, watch certain movies, enjoy certain sports and forms of entertainment, and attend certain functions which the Lord at one time convicted you of–but now there is no conviction!

Beware! This type of backsliding is often done in the name of spiritual maturity. I warn you as one who once fell into this very error: It is a trap and a lie!

The fact that something doesn’t “bother you” may be the loudest warning you will ever hear. You are not experiencing the freedom that comes as a result of trust; you are experiencing the insensitivity that comes from hardness. Absence of divine conviction does not mean absence of divine displeasure. It may actually point to a withdrawing of His presence. In fact, if the Holy Spirit is dealing with you even now, cry out to Him right where you are for restoring grace.

Am I backsliding in spiritual authority and personal victory? Perhaps you are experiencing a lack of victory over the flesh, falling back into old habits and lusts, finding yourself unable to resist and drive out the devil from strongholds in your life or the lives of those to whom you minister.

Remember: You can fool others, but you can’t fool the flesh–and you can’t fool the devil. As Leonard Ravenhill often asked, “Are you known in hell?” Are you moving from victory to victory, or do you find yourself more and more entangled every day (or month, or year)?

Peter taught that “a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him” (2 Pet. 2:19). You must ask yourself if Jesus is your Master or if you are mastered by sin.

CHOOSING TO RESTORE FIRST LOVE The Lord speaks of our first love as a height–a glorious, wonderful height. We forsake–not lose–our first love, meaning that we leave that place of spiritual passion by the choices we make and the lifestyle we adopt. Our first love is not something we accidentally misplace.

The Lord calls us to repent of the sin of forsaking our first love, meaning that we can be restored to that place of spiritual passion by the choices we make and the lifestyle we adopt.

What then are those choices and what is that lifestyle? Jesus gives us the answer: “Repent”–meaning make an about-face–“and do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5).

Have you ever read a Christian book on rekindling love in a failing marriage? Such a book would diagnose the nature of marital problems and give practical steps to correct them. It might give as an example the husband who, in the early days of his relationship with his fiancée or wife, called her several times a day, sent her flowers once a week, took her on a special date every Saturday and so on. He knew how to keep the home fires burning.

But five children, three apartments, one house, four moves, six jobs and about 20 pounds later, he’s forgotten what it takes. This husband needs to do the things he did at first. He needs to set aside time for his wife and love her again as his bride!

MICHAEL L. BROWN

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