Goofs, Grace, and Growth

When I was a kid, I would come home from school, get a snack, and turn on the TV. One afternoon at the age of eight or nine, I did my routine and saw a tall man; with piercing eyes, a long pointy nose, and hair styled to look like a ski slope, holding a Bible and shouting; His name was Pastor Rod Parsley. I was intrigued by him; the way he preached mesmerized my young mind. After that, it became part of my daily routine to watch Pastor Rod Parsley at 3:30 pm when I got home from school.

Because of his preaching, I asked my parents if I could go to church, and we started going with a friend of my mom’s. When he came out with his first Bible, the Breakthrough Covenant Partner Devotional Bible, I wanted it and begged my parents to send the $50 to get it and the two books he offered on his show. I found the ministry of Kenneth Copeland through Rod Parsley, and through Kenneth Copeland, I found my other favorite preacher, Jerry Savelle. I wanted to preach like Rod Parsley and teach like Jerry Savelle. I thought Jerry Savelle was the coolest, he wore Hawaiian shirts at the convention’s and his Bible had two translations, the King James and the Amplified Bible.

As a kid, I did not realize people disapproved of Kenneth Copeland and Jerry Savelle’s teaching. All I knew was they used tons of Bible verses, and Brother Copeland always preached past his timer. In those days, I learned so many Scriptures, not through trying to memorize them but just by hearing them repeated again and again. During the summer I would watch all the Believer’s Conventions online. Parsley, Savelle, and Copeland taught me to love the Bible. I always heard Kenneth Copeland say, put the Word first place and make it final authority. I watched them on TV, I got a VHS of Gloria Copeland’s healing school, had teachings on cassette tapes, and read their books and magazines. I was beginning to understand the Bible, memorize Scripture, and learning how to use my faith.

When I was in my teens, I had less of a draw to Rod Parsley and more towards Jerry Savelle. I was all in on the word of faith, even though I did not know it was called that. I started hearing things that I did not agree with, like Copeland saying Jesus suffered in Hell. I didn’t know why that was wrong at the time, I just knew it was. A few years later, I heard him say, when he reads I AM in the Bible, he smiles and says I am too, and that was wrong. The phrase, I AM that I AM was given in an answer to Moses. Who shall I say sent me? I Am. When Jesus said I AM, He was claiming deity. I am NOT a deity, so I wouldn’t smile and say I am too. Even though I knew those things were wrong, I still listened to him, and I would continually go back to Rod Parsley. Something seemed off but I didn’t know what it was. Besides that, they always had multiple Scriptures to back up what they were saying. The churches we had been a part of never talked about or taught doctrine or theology, so I didn’t know they were misusing verses.

While listening to all the word of faith teaching, my dad told me about a guy who had a radio program at night. At the age of twelve (I think) I started listening to Praise in the Night with Steve Solomon. He played music I had never heard, nothing like we had in our church. He did this thing called Shigionoth, where he would sing the Scriptures; it was the most incredible thing. Fast forward several years, I realized he had a church near us that had Saturday night services, so my dad took me to a few. When I started driving, I went there on Saturday nights and our church on Sunday. At that time, we were going to a non-denominational church whose leaders were into Bethel. Bethel always bothered me, and I chose to stay away from them and stick with the word of faith.

As I was going to Pastor Steve Solomon’s Church, Riverwalk Fellowship on Saturday nights, I was being introduced to things and hearing about people I had never heard of before. I started going on Sundays in February of 2008 because I got tired of hearing him preview his Sunday message. He was preaching on Romans chapter eight, and I wanted to hear it. That’s when my word of faith world got turned upside down. He kept talking about the sovereignty of God, something I would discover the word of faith did not believe. He mentioned a book by A. W. Pink titled, The Sovereignty of God. I got it from the church bookstore and read it in a week. Over the next three years, I got a crash course in reformed theology from Pastor Steve. Now Pastor Steve was charismatic and a Calvinist, so everything was okay at that point. I did start questioning certain aspects of the word of faith, but I had a connection with Copeland and Savelle, so I held the two teachings in tandem the best I could.

Then one day, I was watching Pastor Bill Winston. He asked, how many of you think God is in control? I thought to myself, duh, of course, He is. To my utter shock, Winston said; if God is in control, He sure has this world in a mess. God’s not sovereign, and he went on to say that our words changed things, if we want to see things change, we have to use our delegated authority. That was the moment I truly began questioning what I had been taught for years about faith, the power of my words, and why they didn’t believe in sovereignty. But it wasn’t till a decade later that I would fully walk away.

There is a verse that well describes that decade, 2 Peter 2:22 NKJV ” But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

The question Elijah asked the people is also fitting for that period in my life, how long will you falter between two opinions. 1 Kings 18:21 NKJV “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.”’

For me, it was, how long will you falter between the word of faith and all things charismatic versus reformed theology? How many times will you return to something you know is wrong? They are two different theologies. One emphasizes your words and the power behind them, the other emphasizes God’s sovereign decree. One ignores the book of Job, and the other finds deep theological comfort in it. One says God always heals and gives a bunch of reasons why it doesn’t happen, all revolving around you. Whereas reformed theology says, His grace is sufficient. The more I held on to the word of faith and reformed theology, the more I realized these two things are diametrically opposed to one another.

I read a few paragraphs from The Sovereignty of God a few nights ago, and I realized back in 2008, I was so entrenched in the word of faith that I missed important points. “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18). “But God does not give this power to get wealth to everyone the same. Why not? Why has he given such wealth to people like J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller? The answer to these questions is because God is sovereign, and therefore does as He pleases.” (pg.11).

In the word of faith, this verse was used to prove God wanted everyone wealthy. It says right there that God gives you the power to get wealth. Yet, A. W. Pink reads that verse very differently, if you have wealth, it is because God gave you the power to attain that wealth. One views wealth as a guarantee, the other views wealth as a sovereign gift.

It was hard for me to admit that the god of the word of faith and the God of reformed theology were two different gods. In the word of faith, even though I didn’t want to acknowledge it, we believed God existed for us; He wanted us to be blessed, and that wasn’t spiritual like in the book of Ephesians. No, God wanted you blessed in the city, in the field, they had houses, plural, that they didn’t build. Jesus rode a donkey that had never been ridden, which was a sign, I should be driving a high-end new car. In reality, I was “God” in that theology because God served my desires. Of course, we gave lip service to holiness and honoring God with our possessions. But if you looked deeply into the theology, God isn’t God in that system. My faith accomplished things, my words had the power. If something did not happen, it was my fault. We had power over the weather, yet time and again, the power didn’t seem to work. God wants to heal everybody, yet the most devoted and faithful still suffered.

That was the hardest thing for me to allow myself to realize. That’s probably why I left the word of faith and went back to it four times in two decades. No one wants to admit what they had been believing is wrong. I knew Jesus didn’t suffer in hell, I knew I wasn’t “I am too”. When Copeland, the Arnot’s, and others met with the Pope and said we were all one, I knew that was wrong. But I dismissed all of that. Why? Because Copeland used Scripture, I could disregard all the stuff I disagreed with and still hold onto the faith, healing, and prosperity teaching because he had Scripture for that.

The truth is, the three things I just mentioned should have caused me to run from Kenneth Copeland, but I felt a bond with him, just like I felt with Rod Parsley. I think that’s why we dismiss that gut feeling of something being wrong. Because we feel connected to them, we don’t want to acknowledge what we know is wrong. Add to that, listening to a bunch of prophets who constantly talk about not questioning the move of the Spirit, not hindering your faith, walking in doubt, etcetera, and you have a great recipe for keeping people on a hamster wheel. I stayed on that wheel for years, getting into the Jewish roots, not missing any prophetic word. I realized something was really wrong when Todd Bentley came on the scene. Everyone was talking about how great a move of God was happening in Florida, but I knew something was wrong; you could tell by the types of manifestations, punching people, and lack of teaching. Low and behold, he was having an affair among other things. But not to worry, the people I followed were not involved, but I did question a large chunk of charismatic leadership.

The more I read theological books and listened to Pastor Steve, the more word of faith seemed anti-biblical. The faith, healing, and prosperity teaching that I thought I could hang on to was beginning to seem just as unbiblical as the things I disagreed with. I already questioned the lack of holiness after being exposed to John Wesley, but the sovereignty of God just kept eating away at the word of faith foundations in me. I was the dog returning to vomit and the clean pig going back to the mud hole.

So what did it, what caused me to walk away for good? It was a combination of things. In 2019 the prophetic word was the year of abundant harvest, yet, no one was prospering on the level that prosperity was preached. Of course, that was because the faith level wasn’t where it needed to be. My mom tried telling me something was off, I just wasn’t in a place to hear that yet, but the Lord was working on my heart. Another thing that happened was, I got a Passion Translation Bible because everyone was loving it, and if you know me, you know I like using different translations, so I bought a New Testament. I went to some of my favorite verses and was bothered by many of the renderings. Some verses I could tell had many extra words, other verses had the meanings completely changed and charismatic theology inserted into the text. My mom sent me a video by Mike Winger on the Passion Translation, after watching it, I knew there was a huge problem. Having grown up Assembly of God, being in the word of faith, where we put the Word first place and make it final authority, I couldn’t understand how leaders I respected bought into such a terrible translation. It’s one thing to have a charismatic theology, it’s quite another to insert words like portal, glory, realm, activated, supernatural, and many others when they simply are not in the text. This is what bothered me the most, we were the people of the Spirit, yet we had no reverence for the Spirit-inspired Word of God. A few weeks later my mom sent me the American Gospel free version on YouTube and that brought all my reformed theology rushing back to me.

I had been holding two opposed positions for years. Now, the word of faith camp would say, that’s why my faith wasn’t working. The question I had was, what about all the people sold out to the message, who know nothing about reformed theology? They aren’t prospering either, so the issue can’t be that my faith has “mixture”. Even at that point, it was still hard for me to acknowledge the word of faith was wrong but enter 2020, the year the prophets got EVERYTHING WRONG! I had almost completely walked away, except for the fact that I still held these men in esteem and I was still convinced of the Jewish roots. When Kenneth Copeland blew the virus away, I was stunned. I turned off the TV and knew I had to be done with that nonsense. I walked away from the Jewish roots when I realized one of the guys I listened to often quoted rabbis who spoke against Jesus, and another, a rabbi who was charismatic, believed in the seven mountain mandate (which I outright rejected the first time I heard it in the early 2000s) and began getting way off track. I also listened to a message from Pastor Steve, who was Jewish by birth, refute the things I was being taught with the Scripture and Jewish history. When I discovered the Talmud was written to counter the missionary movement, I realized I was being lead astray. Once again, all of the extra stuff, further revelation, prophetic insight, in the name of the great end-time revival, was shown to be empty words.

I had known for a long time that the charismatic movement was off but I wanted to be in the great move of God. 2020 was also the year Todd Bentley was ruled disqualified from ministry, after a long period of investigation in 2019. Watching that unfold left an extremely bad taste in my mouth in regards to the integrity of many leaders because many of them still supported him. In 2020 Bill Johnson spoke at Kenneth Copeland’s Believers Convention. I always knew Bethel, and Bill Johnson had a wrong understanding and application of Scripture, yet here he was with one of my favorites. It was then that the full realization of what this was hit me. The charismatic movement, Bethel, word of faith, prophetic movement, all of it is a distinction without a difference. They all want a move of God, and they won’t let theology and doctrine get in the way of what is coming. Unity at the expense of truth is what you have in the charismatic movement.

 The move is always coming, and when it arrives, it never lives up to the hype. Your breakthrough is always around the corner, and the great transfer of wealth has been coming since the 80s. I was not going to miss it, and that’s why I kept going back to conferences even though I was uncomfortable. We needed to keep building our faith, decreeing prophetic words, contending, doing spiritual warfare.No doubt, unbelief, or questions would stop my breakthrough, hinder my call, or steal my anointing. The last five conferences I went to, I left because they made me uncomfortable. That is how wrong this stuff is; you are so focused on the move, you ignore Scripture, and you ignore the Holy Spirit leading you away from the hamster wheel. All the prophets missed it about everything in 2020, but they move on. Several have even said the fact that prophets missed it, shouldn’t be our focus. There is no accountability within this vast amalgamation; it is not separate movements, they are all the same. They value new revelation over the written word, charisma over character, and manifestations over sound teaching.

The people that claim to know the Spirit most intimately; dishonor Him in the most grievous ways. The Toronto Blessing, which was the spearhead of the modern-day Charismatics, had all kinds of wild antics. Howling, rolling on the floor, uncontrollable laughter that sounded demonic in origin in many cases, and very little Bible teaching, all the way up to the fire tunnels and grave sucking of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry students. This was the move of the Spirit, yet, I never understood holy laughter, people prayed in tongues yet it seemed to yield no fruit in their lives or purpose in the meeting. I loved the Bible, I loved the Holy Spirit, but the more time went on, I couldn’t stop wondering, is this really the work of the Spirit?

It was hard to walk away. I had two decades worth of notes, books, understanding, I was ready for a move of God. Even though I knew so much was wrong in the movement; the teaching, lack of character, and no accountability, I kept feeling like walking away was disrespectful to the Holy Spirit, I felt like walking away was giving up on God’s plan. I wrestled with this for months. I knew what was wrong, but what was I going to do? Where was I going to go to church? I’ve been Charismatic my whole life, I couldn’t possibly go to a boring baptist church. What about my call to ministry? I had so many questions, but in the end, I knew the Charismatic movement was wrong and I could no longer say, I reject this, this, this, and all the long list of things I didn’t see in Scripture. It was more than apparent that what I didn’t see in Scripture was more prevalent in the movement than what I did see in Scripture.

The move of God I had been searching and waiting for finally came, just not in the way I expected. The Holy Spirit moved me out of false teaching into the truth. I found the move of God in the reformation. Scripture was put in the hands of people in their language. I found the move of God in the writings of Spurgeon and Edwards. I found the holiness that was lacking in the charismatic movement in the writings of John Wesley. I found what the Charismatic movement promised in the simplicity of Scripture. I don’t need a personal prophecy. Hebrews chapter one says in the last days that God spoke through His Son. John 20:21 says these things were written that you might believe Jesus is the Son of God. We do not need modern-day miracles, we need the gospel, and signs and wonders are not the gospel, and they do not validate the gospel. The Word of God is inerrant, infallible, and sufficient.

Kenneth Copeland taught me to put the Word first place and make it final authority. I will always be thankful for that. That is the very reason I walked away from what he taught. Everything under the Charismatic tent puts prophecies, dreams, visions, and experiences ahead of the Word of God. They would never say that, but all we have to do is look at what they teach and where they put emphasis, and it is not on the person and work of Jesus Christ. The word of faith, Bethel, and prophetic movements teach a different gospel, and they present a different Jesus. They like to quote revivalists of the past, but they steer clear of their theology. They ignore the theology because it condemns their message. I loved the music, I enjoyed the preaching, and I spent years consuming the books. That stuff was my life. But one thing kept nagging at me, God’s sovereignty. John Piper’s book, The End for Which God Created the World, A. W. Pink’s book on sovereignty, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, it all took me back to God’s sovereignty. Those two books and those two men wouldn’t let me go. When I read Edwards and Spurgeon there was a deep sense of awe and reverence for God, the Scriptures, and the work of the Spirit. The only thing I saw in the Charismatic movement was pandemonium. It manifested in the disregard for holiness and contempt for biblical theology and doctrine. I spent two decades in the Charismatic movement and checked out all the streams they had. In the end, I wanted living water, and that is only found in the Word of God; rightly taught and handled with honor.

The Charismatic movement had no place for the sovereignty of God, and I saw it all over the Bible. Theology is not stuffy, it is the study of God. Doctrine is divisive, it divides truth from error. The Charismatic movement is rife with error. Those who contend for holiness in the movement continue making excuses for aberrant doctrine. We need that division in our day, that division of truth from error is the reason I walked away from the word of faith, from prophecy, from all of it. Some may ask, but don’t you believe in healing? Yes, I believe God sovereignly heals, but all the steps, confessions, and extras I was taught are not necessary. We need to put our trust in God, not in our ability to have faith.

We need men like the reformers who put the emphasis on Scripture. We need men like Edwards whose revivals were marked with full-throated gospel preaching and sermons like, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God and Heaven is a World of Love. We need men like Spurgeon, who will stand against the rising tide of pragmatism. We need men like the Apostle Paul, who will call out false teaching and contend for the truth. As I went through the process of understanding all the false teaching I consumed, I cried many tears and had many conversations with my parents, and repented for many things. God was loving and patient with me as I wrestled through all the questions and emotions over two decades, especially from the fall of 2019 till early in 2020. But God had a plan, and God’s will is always accomplished. I have no doubt that is why the first theology book I ever read was The Sovereignty of God, it was all by His design, and things came about in His time. I wouldn’t trade any part of my journey for anything. He has watched over me through it all, and for that, I am grateful. My prayer is simple; if you listen to or read any of the things I have described in this post, please pick up your Bible and pray. See if what you are being taught or if what you are experiencing lines up with Scripture. It will be hard to walk away, but the truth will set you free, and I promise you will love your freedom.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s