"Out of the Pan and Into the Fire"
The Vineyard, the Charismatic Church, and the Cults
Long before I became a born-again Christian four years ago, I spent 7 years in a cult calling itself the Church of the Living Word, also known as ‘the Walk’, lead by John Robert Stevens. After the Walk, I went to the Vineyard and spent 9 years there from 1989 up until 1998. When I became a Christian in the fall of 2001 I was attending a local Charismatic church.
Soon after becoming a Christian and learning God’s Word, I started to notice the strange similarities between what we had been taught in the Walk – an outright cult - and what was being taught in the Vineyard and Charismatic movements. I also noticed a similar ‘cultic’ mindset. I will discuss this mindset in more detail later, but by this ‘mindset’, I am not referring to specific doctrine, but in the way one generally approaches the search for truth, appraises church teaching, and relates oneself to the leadership.
One of the most delightful aspects of being a ‘born-again’ Christian is the new spiritual reality that takes place on a personal level with our living Savior, Jesus Christ. Life changes from the inside, and it is truly a new life. One of the several changes that took place for me, and I believe for anyone truly born-again, is a new love for God’s Word. There was a hunger for the Word, and I could not get enough of God’s truth. I started to devour the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. And this is when my trouble with the charismatic church started.
Charismatic and Vineyard churches are highly autonomous, so I want to be careful not to paint them all with the same broad brush. It is not my purpose to label them all as cults and many of these churches are attended by sincere Christians. However, Charismatic and Vineyard churches as a group have endorsed the new generation of charismatic apostles and prophets as bona-fide spiritual leaders.
Yet many of the sincere Christians who attend these churches have not made a complete or careful examination of the teachings of these apostles and prophets, nor carefully searched the Scriptures to see if they are true. Many of the major beliefs and premises of these prophets and apostles are very similar, and in some points identical, to the heretical teachings we believed in the Walk. Furthermore, within the charismatic movement there are pronounced tendencies that are highly cult-like in so far as the way members relate themselves to spiritual leadership and respond to teaching.
What I hope to accomplish in this article is to address the similarity of teaching and mindset between the cult and Charismatic/Vineyard groups. The similarities are not minor, nor are they confined to peripheral issues. It involves almost all of the core doctrines and major beliefs of the charismatic movement.
For 7 years during the 1970’s and early 80’s I was a member of a cult calling itself “The Church of the Living Word”, also known as “The Walk”. It was founded by a man named John Robert Stevens who, it was believed, was the ‘Apostle’ raised up by God to lead the Christian church into the “fullness of the Kingdom of God” on the earth. He taught a blending of Latter Rain doctrine and occult, with enough of a Christian veneer to fool sincere believers who had a hunger for something more than what their traditional church had to offer.
I was immediately attracted by the sense of ‘spiritual’ energy and divine mission they seemed to possess. They had apostles and prophets, just like in the Bible, and they told us that God was doing a new thing and we were “it”. I spent most of my Walk years from 1977 to 1984 as a member of local cell churches in Ontario and Alberta, with frequent trips to larger Walk centers around the US.
The founder of the Walk, John Robert Stevens (JRS), claimed to be the Apostle to the Kingdom. He believed he was receiving the new revelation from God necessary to lead the church into the New Thing God was bringing, which was the fullness of the Kingdom of God in the Earth before Christ’s return. The Walk was one of the more radical tributaries that flowed out of the Latter Rain revival of the late 40’s and 50’s. Walk doctrine incorporated the worst of the many heresies that came out of the Latter Rain movement, with some of Steven’s own ideas thrown into the mix.
Stevens had been hugely influenced by William Branham during the Latter Rain movement. Branham believed that he was the angel of the seventh church mentioned in the Book of Revelation. He also believed, among other things, that the Word of God was expressed to us not just in the Bible, but in the Zodiac and Egyptian Pyramids, and his teaching was a blending of the occult, spiritism, and the Bible. Stevens picked up many of his ideas from Branham and other Latter Rain teachers and started his own church in 1950, located in the Los Angeles area.
I knew nothing of Walk history at the time, but when I joined in 1977 it had grown to a large network of about 100 churches spread across North America, with a few small groups in Europe and South Africa.
I soon found out that being in the Walk was going to be a whole lot more fun than traditional church life. Walk people took the doctrine of “salvation by faith alone” into interesting new levels. It didn’t matter a whole lot how you lived as long as “your heart was right” and you believed the right things. I didn’t smoke, drink, or visit bars when I joined the Walk, but that all changed. Many Walk members would often frequent bars and strip clubs, drink excessively and generally whoop it up, and I was soon going along with them. This was considered to be a healthy development for me since I was coming from a “religious” background.
In the Walk, one of the biggest hindrances to true spirituality was to have what we termed a “religious spirit”. Being religious was ‘old order’ and would hinder the ability to receive the new revelation coming from JRS. It was believed that one of the best ways to break a religious spirit was to let it all hang out and indulge your fleshly cravings. Indulging and expressing “the flesh” was considered more honest and “being real”, and therefore closer to God than phony, restrictive, “religious” behavior.
So in the topsy-turvy world of the Walk, carnality and sinful indulgence was an accepted route to spirituality. Many of those regarded to be the most spiritually mature were also often the wildest drinkers and party goers. But it was generally agreed that this was perfectly fine, because they were considered spiritually strong enough to handle it.
The Walk was very insular and elitist in the extreme. As far as we were concerned, the Walk was it. We were the embodiment of what God was doing in the earth today, moving towards becoming the manifestation of Christ in the earth with all His power and glory, which would enable us to usher in the new era of Christ’s Kingdom. Anyone who was in tune with God would see this and join our movement. Those who did not see things our way just didn’t have the revelation.
Steven’s would have nothing to do with other denominations and we did not associate at all with other Christian groups. In our view, there was little to be gained by associating with other Christian groups anyway, since we were the ones who had “the revelation”, and if there was more to be given, God would give it to us. We were on God’s cutting edge, leading the way for the “new thing” God was doing in our generation. This elitism, the sense of being on God’s cutting edge, was what attracted most of us to the Walk. We loved the sense of being a part of God’s inner circle.
Violent Intercession and Prophecy Junkies
Our services typically compromised of sitting around in a group listening to the latest tape from Anaheim. We all became prophecy junkies and lived from week to week in eager anticipation of the latest “word.” There was little teaching from the Bible. The pastor/leader was the guy who switched on the tape machine or regurgitated the latest apostolic revelation. After listening to the latest “word” from the Apostle, we would begin to engage the enemy in spiritual warfare through a form of prayer known as “violent intercession”.
Spiritual “violence” was one of the very basic premises behind the Walk, taken from the King James translation of Matthew 11:12. This teaching, generally referred to as “Taking the Kingdom by Violence”, was the concept that the Kingdom would only belong to those who wanted it badly enough to attain a sufficient level of spiritual intensity . (Violence did not mean physical force, but a spiritual intensity.) Only those intense enough would “break through” in the spiritual realm and release the spiritual power necessary to make the word a reality. Intensity of prayer, or “violent intercession”, is what made it happen. This violent intercession was a big part of Walk church meetings. We believed that intensity and forcefulness behind our prayers was required to be effective, so we all worked very hard at building up our intensity by shouting, stomping our feet, and punctuating our demands with slashing hand action (like a sword).
We would typically begin to “intercede” by standing around in a circle after listening to the latest tape. Intercession would often begin by rebuking complacency in God’s people and appropriating the promises with shouts of faith. We would rebuke the Devil and the host of evil beings arrayed against us in the heavenlies.
‘Violent’ intercession comprised of shouting favorite “catch phrases” at God or the Devil. Some typical catch phrases often shouted repeatedly during intercession were:
“We loose the word tonight, Lord!” (With foot stomping.)
“We rebuke all passivity tonight!” (Rapid hand motions slice the air in emphasis.)
“We cast down the enemy and all his lies.”
“We speak the Apostles release today, Lord!”
“We won’t rest until we have the fullness of your Kingdom Lord.”
The intensity of our prayers and faith would “loose the word”. “Loosing the word” was setting its creative power free, and was another major premise of the Walk.
Great emphasis was placed in becoming the “word” through the intensity of our intercession. Attaining greater levels of spirituality depended upon our intensity. We believed we could speak the ‘word’ into existence, and appropriate the reality through prayer and positive confession. “Speaking” a word, such as ‘peace’ or ‘faith’, would impart it. Prayer commonly involved making ‘prophetic declarations’. As we prayed, we would lean forward, rapidly rocking back and forth and stomping the ground with our feet. Prophetic declarations were punctuated with rapid hand action, chopping and slicing through the air. We seldom ever sat or kneeled in prayer, as that made it more difficult to be intense.
The focus of our prayers would be to appropriate for ourselves the latest “truth” revealed by the Apostle and to speak it into being. We would also pray for the Apostle Stevens to have the “Kingdom breakthrough” we were all believing for. It was believed that once we pushed him through to the Kingdom through our intense intercession, he would be able to bring the rest of us into the Kingdom.
The Walk was very militant in tone. The songs, prayers and teachings all had a military air. A lot of Walk teaching revolved around the whole concept of a spiritual army ‘taking the Kingdom by force’, which resulted in prayers that were not about submission to God or seeking His will, but in casting down demonic powers and strongholds in high places. We were very demanding and insistent of our rights as sons of God. Praying in the Walk had little to do with humbly seeking God for His will and submitting to it as most Christians properly understand prayer. No, not us - we demanded the promises! Of course, we believed that it was all according to God’s will as revealed by the Apostle. We were intense prophets, God’s spiritual warriors excitedly taking the Kingdom by storm, not humble servants!
Getting the Revelation
In the Walk, we often talked of “getting the revelation” or “revelation knowledge”. This was a mystical insight that gave us access to spiritual truths, as opposed to informing the intellect through the study of God’s Word. ‘Getting the revelation’ was knowledge of the truth gained through a mystical experience or insight. This method of gaining the truth was considered much more spiritual, and therefore far superior, to mere Bible study. The knowledge of truth was received by direct spiritual insight or impartation, of which the apostle Stevens was the channel. We were expected to accept what Stevens said as direct from God, without criticism. Our own spiritual capacity to receive the truth would confirm it. No need to carefully check the Bible.
There was often much talk and teaching about the necessity of bypassing the mind in order to ‘receive’ the truth. Those who were properly open to God would receive the divine illumination to know the truth of what the Apostle said. We were to have a mystical inner sense that told us what was true. Those who didn’t believe just didn’t have the necessary spiritual ability to receive, and therefore couldn’t “know”.
Possessing the inner mystical ability to “get the revelation” permeated the Walk and it’s teaching, and believing that you had it was essential to joining the Walk. This is a hyper-spiritual way of thinking that becomes very self-authenticating . It provides an almost impermeable defense from any form of criticism, because anyone who questioned us or our teaching just didn’t have the ‘revelation’ and thus could be safely ignored. They were obviously low-wattage Christians, below us on the spiritual scale of things, and we were above quibbling with them. No rational argument from scripture impacted us, because we had moved beyond scripture and entered into the realm of direct knowledge from God. The only scriptures we were interested in were those that seemed to support our beliefs. No one in the Walk ever questioned what Steven’s said, and anyone who did soon left. They were known as “blow-outs” that couldn’t handle the revelation.
Revelation knowledge was in fact what the Walk was all about. God was doing a new thing in the earth, preparing an army that would “break through” into the Kingdom and usher in the reign of Christ in the earth. The Apostle Stevens was the anointed man of God to lead the charge. New revelation was needed for the “new thing”, so God was also raising up prophets and apostles along with Stevens to speak the new, living word of God. A few isolated scripture verses were heavily spiritualized to support this.
Little Christs in the Earth
Stevens taught that the Bible text was a dead letter, and it was only alive as it lived in us and the Apostles. The “word made manifest” was common Walk talk. The “Living Word” was revelation knowledge spoken through the Apostle. The word of God was “Living” because living vessels spoke it and it wasn’t just “dead” text in a book. We believed that we could “become the word” as the word became manifest in us. By this, Stevens literally meant that we could become “the Word made flesh” just as Christ was, and become “little Christ’s” in the earth today.
The spoken word was, in practice if not in doctrine, placed on a par with scripture. In fact, most of us in the Walk ignored our Bibles. I seldom ever opened its pages. Why would I? We were getting God’s latest, hottest word straight off the press.
According to Stevens, he never knew when he might receive a sudden, divine impartation of new wisdom. He was receiving such a steady flow of new revelation from the Lord that he often had a small entourage of assistants following him around with tape recorders so that none of his prophetic utterances would be missed.
Stevens often talked about the Devil. He seemed to talk about what the devil was doing as much as what God was doing. Apparently Stevens was so vital to God’s endtime plan, and moving in such a high level of prophetic impartation, that the devil was always after him and giving Stevens a hard time. Stevens always gave the impression that he was in constant life and death spiritual battles with the enemy, and we were always encouraged to pray for him. In fact, praying for him and listening to his tapes was the main focus of our meetings and of the Walk in general.
We often made pilgrimages to the bigger Walk churches in Sepulveda and South Gate, and several other cities around the U.S. The Walk had a large complex in Iowa, just outside of Washington, called Shiloh. This was our major conference center and school of the prophets. It was a huge wooden structure surrounded by corn fields. I spent a couple of summers there, attending conferences and picking corn. Shiloh soon earned a bad reputation with the locals due to the drinking habits of our church members, who liked to patronize the local bars and drink excessively. Many of the local establishments became “off limits” to Walk members because of our drunken behavior.
However, drinking was very popular in the Walk and seen by many as an effective antidote to a ‘religious spirit’. We were always on the guard against religious spirits cropping up in ourselves and others. Religiosity was considered at least as bad, or even worse than, sin. It was often taught that it was better to just sin and be honest, rather than run the risk of being religious.
Once a man joined our group who used to attend a local Pentecostal church. It was the general consensus that this new member had a religious spirit. We were very worried for him, but much to our relief he soon discovered that he liked the taste of beer and took up drinking. We considered that this was a good thing as it was a sign that the religious spirit that had him in bondage was being broken.
Stevens died in the early 1980’s and his widow, Marilyn, took over leadership of the Walk. I left the Walk in 1984. The last time I had any direct contact with former friends in that group was years later, and they were still praying for Stevens to be raised from the dead.
It is not within the scope or purpose of this article to write a complete history of the Walk and it’s doctrines , but I wanted to give you a summary of it’s major teachings, characteristics and mindset, because the same beliefs that Stevens taught in the Walk are surfacing in the Vineyard/Charismatic prophetic movement today. I have included a summary of the major Walk doctrines in a subsequent chapter.
The Walk embodied a hyper-spiritual way of thinking that fosters spiritual pride, making the affected Christian susceptible to all kinds of unbiblical, elitist beliefs. The Walk conditioned it’s adherents to view all the rest of Christianity as a type of religious ‘Babylon’: in spiritual darkness, unable to receive the revelation we had, and therefore abandoned by God. The Walk was it. I remember well a comment Stevens made once that sums up this cultic conditioning very well. He said it in a very off-the-cuff manner, but it expressed the prevalent Walk attitude. “Once you’ve been in the Walk, it ruins you for anything else. You won’t ever be able to return to Babylon.” (Babylon being any church other than the Walk.)
Hyper-spiritual thinking turns a Christian into a spiritual surfer, always wanting to ride a new wave and looking to catch the next big move of God. Such Christians are seldom satisfied with the plain message of the Bible and reaching the lost so that others can be saved. They are more interested in discovering deeper truths or discussing some novel insight. One of the greatest dangers behind this type of thinking is to cause Christians to forget that our main job here on earth is to preach the gospel and teach the basic Word of God so that others can be brought into the faith of Christ. Instead, it sets Christians on a quest for ever higher spiritual experience, raising up great spiritual armies and engaging in high level cosmic warfare.
I left the Walk and joined the Vineyard movement in the late 80’s. The Vineyard is a Charismatic church growth movement characterized by a casual, relaxed atmosphere and an upbeat, modern style of worship music. The Vineyard is at the forefront of a much larger Charismatic revival, lead by the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) , Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner and the new wave of prophets and apostles rising to prominence. The first thing I noticed about the Vineyard was its music and laid-back preaching style. The music was great and the worship went on for extended periods, the dress was casual and it had a coffee bar at the back. I was to remain in the Vineyard for the next 9 years.
I soon discovered there was a reason for the laid back preaching style in the Vineyard: The Vineyard was very laid-back about what it believed. In contrast to the Walk, the Vineyard was very wishy-washy about what it believed and adopted an easy-going approach to the truth. There was lots of warm and fuzzy preaching on God’s love, personal fulfillment, setting and reaching goals, and dreaming big dreams for life. I used to be in sales in the business world, and recognized most of it as repackaged business management-speak and sales motivational teaching that had more to do with Norman Vincent Peal than the Bible.
The Vineyard was very pragmatic in its approach to church growth. We were often developing new ways to reach the community through various out-reach programs, such as door-to-door food give-aways, free barbeques, or pop give-aways on street corners. These things are not wrong in themselves, of course, but for all our good works, there was little Gospel content in what we did. We put a lot of thought into how to reach the community, but little consideration into the content of the message we were reaching them with. Most of our growth came from attracting existing Christians to our church with our popular music and coffee-club atmosphere.
The Vineyard also took a pragmatic approach to truth: whatever worked was OK. What Bible teaching there was usually came in the form of “keys” or “steps” to reaching some personal or group goal, such as realizing your full potential. Lots of teaching centered on the mechanics of various “how-to” methodologies, such as ‘how-to journal’ as a method to hear God. How-to pray for the sick. How-to reach the community. How-to minister and receive inner-healing. How-to discover your spiritual ‘gift mix’. How-to interpret dreams, and so on.
Often, preaching was little more than subjective ramblings about what the speaker “felt” God was currently saying or doing. And always about how much God loved us and how some wonderful new thing was on the horizon. Always couched in very spiritual terms, but it was typically the leader’s opinions of what God was saying at the moment and seldom was there much, if any, Biblical exposition.
In one such very typical service, the entire teaching consisted of gleanings from a secular book on business success that had been written by a Mormon. In another very typical service I recall, the sermon consisted of jokes the Pastor read from a Christian joke book. The only occasions that I can recall in which the pastor actually expounded on the Bible at any length (apart from cherry-picking the occasional, isolated proof text), was when the church started running into the red, and a sermon on tithing was dusted off.
Even before the ‘Blessing’ hit the Toronto Airport Vineyard in 1994 we were seeing bizarre manifestations in the Vineyard. In the early 90’s, just before 1994 when the ‘laughing revival’ broke out, there was a Vineyard conference in Kitchener that I still think of as “the night of the living dead”. In this conference, when the altar call was given, a large crowd lurched to the front, probably half the auditorium, and started dancing, twisting, gyrating, and hopping at the front as a “blessing” was prayed over them. Vast numbers of people lurched, crawled, staggered and limped around like a mass of grotesque horror flick zombie’s. The room was filled with all manner of freakish, bizarre and even obscene behavior. One girl was on her back in front of the stage, making orgasmic, thrashing and gyrating motions that could only be described as sexual activity.
The Vineyard leaders accepted all this as the moving of the Spirit. The prevailing attitude of the leadership and members was that this was God moving. According to standard Vineyard thinking, the Holy Spirit can do a deep inner work without the mind being informed or knowing what is going on, or without any further knowledge of truth. It was generally acknowledged that some of the bizarre behavior may be demonic in origin, but most of it was the work of the Holy Spirit or the human response to the power of the Holy Spirit at work within. It was believed that the Spirit often worked best and deepest if it could bypass the intellect, and there was no need for the mind to be informed. So we weren’t too concerned because we believed that God was doing a deeper work in them and we simply prayed that God would bless them even more.
In the Vineyard, adhering to true doctrine was not as important as just being open to whatever the ‘spirit’ wanted to do. For any leader, it was more important to be lead by the spirit, and as long as a ministry seemed to move in that, and could get results (make “stuff” happen, which in our circles meant healings and manifestations) h/she was assumed to be a man or woman of God regardless of the content of their teaching. Whatever they said was accepted as a message from God.
As a result of this mindset, a speaker could say almost anything from a Vineyard pulpit as long as they came packaged with the right charismatic personality and spiritual gifts. In the Vineyard, one of the gravest sins that could be committed was to get too firm on beliefs, since that was considered unloving and divisive. Since questioning a teaching was perceived to be divisive and critical, we seldom ever seriously questioned what was taught or took seriously the Biblical warning to test all teachings and prophetic “words”.
Discernment devolved to the level of feelings, intuitive insight and subjective impressions in which no one could know anything for sure, but certain people (usually the ‘prophetic’ types in our midst) were generally trusted to have the right discernment on issues. This attitude fostered a lack of real discernment among Vineyard leaders which opened the doors wide to a large influx of false teachers and false prophets in the early Nineties. I believe it was this lack of discernment, largely due to Biblical illiteracy, that paved the way for the arrival of the Toronto “Blessing” in 1994.
Early in January of 1994, I heard that revival had broken out in the Toronto Vineyard and we went up to check it out. Our Vineyard was within an hours drive. Many friends from our Vineyard church also went up that night. We entered the meeting room and I was stunned by the bizarre scene that opened up before us. It was pandemonium everywhere. The large room was crowded with people shaking, bobbing, running on the spot and flapping their arms.
I didn’t get the “Blessing” that night, but many of my friends did. I walked up to one friend, a worship leader from our church, who was running frantically on the spot and flapping his hands. I asked him what he thought was happening and how he felt. He had no explanation, only a smile, and he couldn’t stop the running or hand flapping.
I attended several Toronto meetings. Although the leaders would often say that the manifestations where not what it was all about, that’s what they mostly talked about and they held them up as the proof of God’s moving in our midst. It was obvious that the manifestations were the big drawing card. After an extended time of worship, there would be a testimony time in which the leader would interview people up front about what they felt God was doing within them.
Manifestations often started during worship, but became very pronounced during testimony time, and the leaders would go with “whatever God was doing in our midst” and allow almost anything to happen. Often there was no time left for preaching. But that was never an issue, because we were not going up to hear the Word. Soon, the thing was to double over making gasping or mooing noises. From that time on, there was a lot of “mmmooooooing”, “wwhhooooing” and “ooooooing” in Vineyard meetings.
One Vineyard service I remember at a church north of Toronto was very typical. It was more like a drunken party than a church service. The chairs had been cleared away so that the middle was open. The congregation stood around and danced to loud rock “worship” music. Many at the front were falling over each other. As they touched each other, they would get “blessed” and double over, collapsing in a heap, arm in arm. Communion was served as a women danced through the crowd with a tray serving glasses of grape juice to other dancers on the floor. We were there until after 10:30 at night, and still the worship and dancing continued and no one preached. I stood in the back, not dancing.
At this time, and for several years, I was decidedly pro-Toronto Blessing, as the renewal came to be known. I didn’t understand what was going on, but decided that if that’s how God wanted to move, then that was fine by me. Who was I to question God? It never occurred to me to open my Bible and test what was going on against the Word. The mystical education I received in the Walk set me up perfectly to accept the Toronto Blessing without question.
I had been taught in the Walk to accept that God could do things that did not line up with the written Word. Now, in the Vineyard we had Prophets who were getting a steady stream of messages from God who could interpret what was going on for us, even though we did not know what the Bible taught on such matters.
So I went with it, and criticized the critics for being closed to what the Spirit was doing. I considered that those “old order Pharisees” just couldn’t handle it when God wanted to do something fresh in another group like ours. They just didn’t understand what God was doing in our midst. If they’d just open up their hearts to the Spirit, then they would understand that this was really God. But they couldn’t do that because they were “religious” and narrow minded. This pretty much summed up my attitude and the prevalent attitude of the pro-Toronto crowd.
In the Walk we were used to accusations from other church groups of being a cult, and we all learned how to deal with that without letting it get to us. Didn’t Ishmael always persecute the true Isaac? Didn’t the old order always misunderstand the new thing God does? Were not the true prophets persecuted? So when other Christian groups began to question the Toronto Blessing and raise many serious and legitimate theological concerns, I already had the necessary psychological defenses in place to dismiss them out of hand - without ever stopping to think for even a moment that they just may have a point!
During the mid to late 90’s, I was involved in a new Vineyard church plant in our community. However, by 1998 the church plant fizzled and I began attending a local Charismatic church. But I still considered myself to be a part of the Vineyard and continued to move socially in Vineyard circles for a few more years.
The two years that followed were the worst of my life. Looking back on it now, it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, because the Lord used it to finally bring me to Himself in real surrender and conversion. Faithful are His afflictions.
I was in the deep black pit of despair and saw no way out. Everything in my life was going wrong in a dramatic and expensive way. Late one night in September of 2000, I was laying awake in bed worrying about my many problems and how everything in my life had gone terribly wrong. I didn’t know where to turn. I thought I was a good Christian and couldn’t understand why my life was falling apart.
As I laid there reviewing my life, I began to realize that even though I considered myself a good person and I believed in God in an intellectual way, Jesus was not the Lord of my life. I was still in control of my life and I was not living for Him. I had never given Him my life and entrusted myself completely to Him, and I was afraid of what He might do if I did. I had never given up my will and desires. I did not believe that His way really was better than mine. That night I saw my unbelief and lack of trust in Christ for the sin that it was.
At around 2 AM I got up and went downstairs to the living room, and got on my knees and began to pray and call out to God. I began by confessing all my sins that I was aware of and repenting of them, asking Him to forgive me and help me to change. I confessed especially my sin of unbelief and rebellion by not trusting Him to direct my life. I repented of my fear of what He may do with my life, and I handed my life fully over to Him, asking Him to come and be the Lord of my life and take charge completely.
I don’t remember what words I used exactly, but this in a nutshell was how I prayed. The key was surrendering control of my life over to His Lordship. I confessed that I was still a sinner because I was in control and essentially doing things my way. I repented of this, and surrendered my will and ambitions over to Christ and committed myself to doing what He wanted, no matter what. I asked for His help to do this as I knew I couldn’t live the Christian life without His strength. I prayed like this for a long while, and then went back to bed.
I don’t recall feeling anything in particular while I was praying, but I soon noticed that a change took place inside me that surprised me. I became spiritually alive in a way that I had never experienced before. I had a new inner life and strength, freedom from many sins that had plagued me, and a real inner peace that I had never known. My Christian friends called this change ‘conversion’ or ‘born-again’.
One of the first things I noticed after my conversion was that I had a new love for His Word and a passion for the truth. I hadn’t read the Bible for years because I never got very much out of it, but immediately after my prayer of commitment to Christ, I found a new love and pleasure in the Word. His Book came to life for me in a way that I had never experienced before, and I began to spend hours reading it.
Also, I began to pray and soon made a habit of getting up early each morning so I could pray before going to work. One of the first things the Lord taught me after my conversion was the importance of spending time alone with Him everyday to maintain and grow in the life of His Spirit. This is how we grow deeper in Him so that we can continually receive His life and not dry up. It is the only way to grow in personal knowledge of Him.
I also found a new power to resist and overcome sin. I was by no means perfect, but I had a new strength and power over sin which I previously didn’t have. Worldly interests faded and I lost interest in the usual entertainment with which I used to occupy my free time. It now seemed to me to be such a colossal waste of time, and even sinful. Instead, I much preferred to spend my free time in prayer, studying the Scriptures, or with my family and other good tasks which pleased the Lord. But probably the most significant change was a great inner peace which I had never before known.
Soon after my conversion I became appalled at the backslidden condition of the church and horrified over its spiritual squalor. For months I was in an agony over the state of the church. The preaching in the Charismatic church I was attending at the time of my conversion was mostly hype, froth and vacuous enthusiasm with little substance. It reminded me of the motivational seminars I used to attend while in business. Yet the people all thought it was wonderful and wanted more. It was a nightmare.
Neither did I understand why most of the people were spiritually dry or even depressed. There was a revolving door at the altar as the people continually went forward for a ‘fresh touch’ to pick them up out of their spiritual slump week after week. I soon realized that most of them knew little about daily quiet time alone with Christ and as a result did not have a very good connection Him. They were trying to get what life they could second hand from others. And I was appalled that the church leaders seemed blind to this situation, and were not teaching the people the crucial importance of getting alone with God every day to pray and read the Bible.
A generation ago, in born-again circles daily quiet time alone with God was considered basic to the Christian life, and neglecting time alone with Him was a sign of back-sliding. This is no longer the case. Today, the church in general is so backslidden and lukewarm, that those who are in the habit of turning of their TV sets and making real time for God each day look like flaming radicals. During a breakfast meeting one morning a few months after my conversion, I told the Pastor of our Charismatic church about my new found joys in quiet time and the new life in Christ I found in it. He only had this word of warning for me: “Don’t turn into a hermit”.
My outward circumstance didn’t change for a long time, and in some ways even got worse, but I felt a Peace that defied explanation. I knew that everything was in God’s hands and I wasn’t worried or anxious. I knew I was where He wanted me to be and that He would take care of me and see me through. However, it was still a long time before there were any visible changes in my external circumstances. The debts were still there and the legal battle continued. Then, about 8 months after my conversion, I lost my job and entered a period of very erratic employment. But I can honestly say that His peace carried me through it all, and I felt perfectly at rest in Him. I did not feel much anxiety over it. I knew He was in control and that if He was allowing these things, then He had a very good reason for it whether I understood or not. All along, God was more concerned with teaching me something rather than simply snapping His fingers to make everything better. Eventually He did rescue me, more wonderfully than I could have imagined, but only after I had learned the lessons He had for me.
Up until my conversion I was still very pro-Toronto Revival, even though I had some questions and had not done a thorough search of the scriptures. I was still of the opinion that we shouldn’t run the risk of going against God by asking questions. But it wasn’t long after my own renewal in Christ that I started to have some serious questions about the Toronto Blessing (TB). There were too many stark contrasts between what I was seeing in the Word and what these TB people were experiencing. I didn’t think that everyone had to experience God the same way I did, but there were too many differences that seemed to be of such a fundamental nature as revealed in the Word that I started to question whether it was really the same spirit at work.
One question I couldn’t wrap my head around was - why did Christians have to receive the Spirit from another person? Christians, supposedly already born-again and having the Spirit, were continually going to Toronto Blessing renewal conferences to receive a further blessing (‘fresh touch’) from the hands of someone who had “it”. Then, once someone had the TB, they could in turn pass it on to others.
This requirement seemed to me to be at odds with the Word and nature of the Holy Spirit, as well as my own experience. Was not the way into the Holy of Holies made for all of us in Christ? To enter in, all we had to do was retire to our private prayer closet. Why did all these Christians need some “Holy Ghost Bartender” to dispense a blessing? Didn’t Jesus say that “Whoever believes in me, as the Scriptures have said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:38) We shouldn’t need anyone to touch us in order to receive from God. All we have to do was get alone with Him.
We shouldn’t need to work ourselves up, get hyped or pumped at a conference by great music in order to receive. According to the New Testament, we no longer need “anointed” worship leaders to usher in the presence of God. Didn’t the Bible say that we no longer had to go to a certain location to enter His presence and that He was with us in our prayer closet? Why then this mad stampede to Toronto to get “it”? These “Toronto” people talked as if they didn’t know how to meet God at all apart from getting zapped at a conference. Whatever it was, it seemed to require all kinds of just the right externals to make it happen: it required the right music, “anointed” worship leaders, charismatic speakers and receptive crowds in order for “it” to happen. It all made me wonder exactly what “it” was that they were getting.
Another thing that struck me as contrary to the Word was that the TB was being passed on to others indiscriminately. It was anyone’s for the asking, no strings attached. The TB leaders were praying for everyone who lined up along the tapped line to receive the Holy Spirit. The only requirement seemed to be the desire to have it. There was no call to holiness, confession of sin and repentance. Again, this seemed to contradict the Bible in many ways.
TB people were often told not to pray, as it hindered their ability to receive the “blessing”. Instead, they were often counseled to remain silent and just be open to receive. This made no sense to me at all. How could praying ever hinder the Holy Spirit?
Also, why the drunken behavior and loss of control that totally contradicted everything the Word had to say about the Spirit of God? I had spent weeks in a very manifest, tangible sense of His presence after my conversion and I came away from the experience with a greater understanding and renewed love for the great truths of the Bible. Never once did I lose control or feel “drunk”. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of clarity and sobriety, of truth and wisdom, Who comes to give us greater knowledge of Christ through an increased understanding of His Word. But these revival drunks were descending into a mindless stupor as they staggered around in a fog, falling over each other. The drunks gained no greater love for the Word as a result of their so-called meeting with God. All they wanted was “more, Lord, more”.
This was in total contrast to my own experience of God’s presence, which was marked by great clarity and left me with a greater love for the written Word and a new joy in reading it. I saw old, familiar Bible truths in a new, clear light that made them fresh and amazingly wonderful.
I pondered these and many other questions for a long while. I had a lot of questions and few answers. So much of what I was seeing in Toronto Vineyard and Charismatic circles just didn’t line up with the Word or the nature of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Word.
Although I had been in the Vineyard when John Wimber embraced Paul Cain and the Kansas City Prophets and introduced them into the church, I didn’t know much about them or what they taught. The Vineyard accepted them and I had many friends who held them in high regard, so I assumed they must be all right. But not long after I was converted, I decided it was time to check into the charismatic prophets and teachings for myself.
I decided to start with Rick Joyner’s teaching and messages, since many of my friends held him in high regard and he seemed to be one of the top “Prophets”. I started reading his stuff, with an open mind since I had no real opinions about him either way. In fact, if anything, I started with a bias in favour of Joyner because I had heard nothing but good about him in Vineyard circles and I had no reason as yet to think otherwise. Soon, my research over the weeks and months spread to the many ministries associated with him: Peter Wagner, Bob Jones, Paul Cain and the Kansas City prophets. For ease of use, I’ll refer to this group as the Third Wave.
As I looked into the teachings of the Charismatic leaders and prophets, I was startled to find out that they believed the same things we believed in the cult. Also, the overall tone and flavor of their prophesying and prophetic lingo was familiar. It sounded too much like the Walk, and I got a bad dose of déjà vu as I realized that the prophets and leaders of the Vineyard and Charismatic movements were teaching the same things we believed in the Walk.
I began making a list of the similarities between the Walk and the Third Wave, a list which eventually reached over 50 items. I later developed these points into a list of ‘Red Flag’ symptoms of deception. There were far too many heretical teachings in common to be coincidental, so I started looking into historical roots. As a result of this research I learned that they shared the same Latter Rain roots. The same Latter Rain doctrines and teachers which had influenced John Robert Stevens had also influenced Paul Cain, the Kansas City Prophets, and many others who influenced the Vineyard. But this time it was not on the fringes of Christianity like the Walk, but leading the prophetic revival sweeping the Vineyard/Charismatic church.
Another question still nagged at me: Was the Laughing Revival a real move of the Holy Spirit or not? So one night in December of 2001 I sat down with my Bible and concordance. I decided the best place to start was with spiritual drunkenness, since this was one of the most prominent manifestations touted by revival leaders as a sign of the Holy Spirit. I read through all the scriptures that talked about drunkenness, cross referencing any related words that came up, such as “staggering”.
I was surprised at how much the Bible had to say on spiritual drunkenness , and just as shocked at how overwhelmingly negative it was. The Bible teaching on drunkenness, spiritual or otherwise, is notable in its overwhelming condemnation of it. In no place does the Bible ever suggest that “spiritual drunkenness” is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, but quite to the contrary, is a sign of spiritual delusion and blindness. Drunken behavior is universally condemned as sinful , and therefore could not be the work of the Holy Spirit. There may be some gray areas in the Bible, but this is not one of them.
Learning to Be Berean
I remember the Vineyard revival leaders telling us not to be afraid of being deceived. In fact, we were often told that we should be more afraid of missing out on what God is doing than in being deceived. According to them, God wouldn’t let us be deceived. But now I understood why Jesus and Paul so often expressed concern that we be not deceived. As I studied the Bible, I began to see in the Word how and why deception happens. In a nutshell, it is often due to Biblical illiteracy.
Many Christians are misled because they lack a ‘Berean’ like diligence to “examine the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Bible calls them “more noble” for this diligent regard for the Word. Paul welcomed this Berean spirit. I wonder why the so-called apostles and prophets today don’t appreciate it. Today they call it ‘religious’, fault finding, critical, divisive, and warn such people that they risk being judged by God. Revival leaders seldom miss an opportunity to mock what they regard as a ‘religious spirit’, which in their view is anyone who is less than enthusiastic about their movement.
Judging teaching is not judging the person. We are not to judge the person, as far as judging their hearts, motives or sincerity. We cannot know those things, but it is a Biblical injunction to judge their teaching and reject those who bring false doctrine. We are to test all prophecies (I John 4:1, 1 Cor. 14:29), test the apostles (Rev. 2:2) and evaluate all teaching (2 John 9-11), to list but a few verses. We are to test all of them, and ignore the false ones all together.
This article is not about heresy hunting. We have the God given duty and responsibility to challenge error and in love warn those caught up in it. God holds us responsible if we don’t.
There is no doubt that the Walk was a cult. Cult experts are agreed on that and the same cultic tendencies and ideas we had in the Walk are being embraced by Vineyard and Charismatic circles: end-time elitism, Apostolic restoration, mysticism, exaltation of the prophetic and revelatory word, mindless acquiescence to prophetic leadership and directives, marginalization of Scripture, to name but a few.
‘Bereans’ who check teachings against the Word are no longer called ‘noble’, but labeled Jezebels, fault finders, and accusers of the brethren. Christians are becoming Biblical illiterates and as a result easy prey for anything that comes along that looks spiritual. They have lost their love for the written Word and are out for an experience. This lack of discernment, especially among Vineyard leaders, is one of the single biggest reasons false prophets and teachers have gained such easy access into the church to spread their heresy. Lack of discernment in the leadership converts the church into a buffet for demonic spirits. That in a nutshell is what I believed happened to Toronto.
Years ago in evangelical circles, a sermon was the subject of lively discussion and critical thought, and any preacher would receive a thorough grilling for anything he said that didn’t line up with the Word of God. Today, that’s gone. Religious consumers sit through the preaching passively, accepting what is said with little critical thought - much like watching TV. Truth isn’t as important as great worship music and the right religious feeling. As a result, today a prophet or teacher can say almost anything and get away with it as long as they say it with a bright smile, sound ‘loving’, and appear to have the right kind of personality. Getting too sticky about the truth is considered divisive and unloving.
The Vineyard went along with what John Wimber said because it was he who said it and they had placed their confidence in him as a man of God. Few of us, including myself, ever checked our Bibles carefully beyond the proof text given. This is devotion to a person over the objective truth of the Bible, and is the essence of a cultic mindset. We see this in churches whenever people passively accept what is being taught without checking the scriptures as long as it sounds spiritual enough and the preacher displays all the charismatic trappings of someone moving in the Spirit. No one wants to believe that the smiling, loving, charismatic figure on the platform is preaching heresy and could possibly be a false prophet. This cultic-mindset is rampant in the charismatic church today and has resulted in an appalling lack of discernment.
The following 15 points define the major teachings of the Walk. This is not an attempt to create an exhaustive description of all Walk theology. For a more complete look into Walk theology and history, please see the unpublished manuscript on the Walk by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project. As a former member of the Walk for over 7 years, I can attest that this report by the SCP is a very accurate and fair description of that cult.
I have placed an asterisk (*) beside each point of Walk teaching that has an equivalent in the charismatic/prophetic movement. The exact terminology may differ, but the ideas are essentially the same.
- End-Time Elitism (Elijah Company). (*)
In the Walk it was known as the “Manchild Company”. Over the years this doctrine has also been known as “The Manifested Sons of God” (MSOG). This was one of the major heresies to come out of the Latter Rain, and has been picked up and repackaged over the years by various charismatic and prophetic groups. They will be an elite class of spiritual warriors with the power and anointing to lead the church to where it should be, establish the Kingdom of God and even inaugurate Christ’s reign on earth. It can take on a wide range of flavours and meanings, from a super-anointing on a spiritually empowered elite to “little Christ’s” - manifestations of Christ incarnate. The Joel’s Army (Gideon’s Army, Elijah Company) talk in charismatic prophetic circles is essentially the same idea.
This was one of the major premises behind the Walk, and Stevens taught a very extreme flavour of this concept. His followers could become the Word of God made flesh in the same sense Christ was. This was essentially the meaning behind the term “Living Word” as used in the name of his church: physical expressions of the Word like Christ. They could become ‘little Christs’ who will have the power of God surpassing anything ever seen before in the church. Many even saw this as possibly representing a spiritual second coming of Christ in the group before He returns physically.
- Kingdom Now/Dominion Theology. (*)
Often coined “Kingdom Breakthrough”. The victorious church, lead by the spiritual elite (The Manchild Company) will establish the Kingdom of God on Earth before Christ physically returns. “Breaking through” into the Kingdom was in fact what the Walk was all about. The Walk’s entire reason for existence was to push Stevens into the Kingdom, mostly through the prayer of “violent intercession”. Once in the Kingdom, Stevens would bring the rest of the Walk in, by “imparting” it to his followers. Sort of a push/pull approach. The Walk would push Stevens in, and then Stevens would pull the rest in. Stevens was often likened to the point of the spear, with the Walk as the shaft, that would be thrust into the Kingdom level and achieve “Kingdom breakthrough”.
- Spiritual Violence.
“Violence” was common Walk verbiage for the level of spiritual intensity required to achieve Kingdom breakthrough. The Kingdom was a new spiritual level that the church needed to attain, and only those who were intense enough could breakthrough into it. This required very intense prayer known as ‘violent intercession’. Passivity - lacking the necessary spiritual intensity - was seen as one of the greatest threats to the success of the Walk. Stevens and Walk leaders would often rant against passivity. It was a grave offense to be passive, and members were always being exhorted to rise up into greater levels of intensity, otherwise we ran the risk of failing to achieve Kingdom breakthrough. Passivity was overcome within us by entering into intense, violent prayer, which involved stamping our feet, shouting, slicing the air with excited hand gestures and other hysterical behavior. Wild shouts such as: “We rebuke all passivity today!” was a common feature of corporate prayer.
- Revelation Knowledge and Special Revelation. (*)
Divine knowledge from God revealed directly to the human mind apart from the written Word; a direct, mystical insight into truth that bypasses the rational processes of intellect, logic, reason and learning. When people received this kind of revelatory insight, they would know intuitively something was true irregardless of Scripture, reason, commonsense, or any objective evidence of truth.
‘Getting the revelation’ is an inner mystical sense confirming the truth of a special revelation or of Scripture. Knowing the Bible and believing it because it is God’s Word was not good enough in the Walk and considered inferior to ‘getting the revelation’ of a truth. A person needed to receive a subjective inner witness of the truth that confirmed God’s Word. This was a spiritual insight that enabled them to ‘see’ the truth for themselves, as opposed to believing it because God said it.
In order to receive revelation knowledge, all a person had to do was simply ‘tune in’ to the ‘flow of revelation’ that was constantly coming from heaven. This was a mystical ‘openness’ in the spirit which could be learned, and had nothing to do with studying the Scriptures and the cognitive faculties. The Walk taught that reasoning things out, even through knowledge of Scripture, would only hinder a person’s ability to receive revelation. All that was required to ‘receive the revelation’ was a spiritual capacity to open up to it and allow it to flow into our minds and spirits. Special revelation did not necessarily have to line up with Scripture, and was quite independent of it.
- Restoration of Apostles. (*)
The Walk taught that God is restoring the ministry of Apostles equal to spiritual authority and revelation to the first century Apostles. It was believed that the full restoration of apostolic ministry was necessary to equip the church for the fulfillment of its purpose and bring it to maturity. God was laying a new foundation for the church because the old foundation was no longer adequate for the new day dawning. Stevens was, naturally, the Apostle to the Apostles.
- Restoration of the Prophetic Office. (*)
Along with the new order of Apostles, God was also restoring the full office of the Prophetic ministry. These are prophets equal in stature to the Old and New Testament Prophets of the Bible. A new revelation is needed for a new day, and God is raising up Prophets and Apostles to bring it. The Bible isn’t sufficient for the new task today. In the Walk, we needed a ‘fresh’ word each week. Stevens’s ministry churned out a vast number of tapes and booklets, and each week there was a new tape with Stevens’s latest, hottest revelation. Stevens’s weekly messages were taken verbatim as direct revelation from heaven. We all became prophecy junkies as we waited each week for the latest prophetic word.
- Resurrection Life.
Stevens taught a doctrine called ‘Resurrection Life’ that he picked up from some of the more extreme elements of the Latter Rain movement. It is the idea that we could enter into our resurrected (heavenly) bodies now, without having to die through a process of evolving spiritual states. Entering our heavenly bodies would bring us supernatural power and immortality. It was never very clear how this would happen, except that when we finally attained enough faith and spiritual intensity, we would break through into a higher spiritual level where resurrection life could be appropriated.
- Spiritual Warfare. (*)
Rebuking the enemy and tearing down demonic strongholds through intense prayer known as ‘violent intercession’. Intense, focused prayer was required to bind the enemy and ‘loose the word’, thereby releasing the purposes of God and overcoming the Devil so that the Kingdom of God could advance against the forces of darkness.
Stevens often talked about the “Nephilim”, and had whole tapes and booklets devoted to this topic. Nephilim were human agents and channels of demonic forces. Praying against people identified as Nephilim was common practice in order to bind them and block their influence.
- The Living (Rhema) Word. (*)
God is speaking a new living ‘Rhema’ word for today through His Apostles. The ‘Living Word’ was as much the Word of God as was the Bible, but better because it is ‘alive’ whereas the Bible was a dead letter. “The letter kills, but the Spirit brings life.” This verse was often used by Stevens, which he twisted to mean that we needed living Apostles and Prophets today to speak the word so that the Word of God would be alive. Without the new Apostles the Bible remained a dead text, mere ink on paper. The word lived in the flesh of Apostles and Prophets.
- Impartation. (*)
The idea that one person can give spiritual gifts, anointings, attributes or qualities to another through prayer and the laying on of hands. Superficially it sounds like Rom.1:11, but in practice it was used as a short-cut to instant spiritual growth by ‘zapping’ spiritual values from person to person. It was very common in Walk services to have personal ministry time in which an apostle, prophet or “mature brother” would impart spiritual gifts and attributes to another. The ability for leaders to ‘replicate’ themselves by imparting what they had to younger ‘Timothy’s’ was considered crucial to the future success of the Walk.
- Positive Confession (Word of Faith). (*)
This teaching is also known as positive proclamations or prophetic proclamation. It was believed that speaking ‘words’ of positive confession had creative power. We could ‘speak’ things into being, especially in the unseen realm, but also in more practical areas such as finances. This was tied in very closely with Stevens’s Living Word teaching. Because God was in us, our words had the same creative power in our mouths that God has when He speaks things into existence. Commonly used prayer lingo associated with this belief was as follows: “Loose the word!”, “Loose faith!” or “We speak faith!” or “We speak release tonight.” or “We proclaim…” and “We claim…” Prayer was usually about loosing and speaking things into reality in the spiritual realm.
- Don’t Think. (*)
Don’t think about it, just open up and accept it. The new revelation could only be received by opening up to it and accepting it, not by the understanding or studying the Scriptures. Stevens had a favorite saying: “People would be better off if they would stand on their heads.” By this he meant put down your intellect and stop thinking so much. Thinking too much blocked your ability to receive divine revelation. The Berean spirit was heavily discouraged, and any kind of questioning of doctrine was taken as a personal assault on Stevens.
- Signs Ministry. (*)
Stevens taught that the Holy Spirit would direct us through various physical sensations in our bodies. He often experienced these sorts of signs himself. For instance, a headache meant spiritual assault or witchcraft was coming against you. Stevens also taught how to interpret the color of people’s aura’s in order to discern their spirit. Red in a person’s aura meant they were rebellious, for instance.
- Personal ‘words’ of direction. (*)
It was a common practice in the Walk to give individuals personal prophetic direction during a church meeting. Personal prophetic words were a common feature of church services. The group would often enter into a period of personal ministry in which the group would pray and prophesy over an individual. During this time the other members of the group would give personal messages of future direction and encouragement to the individual being ministered to. A common feature of these messages was to reveal what that person’s future ministry was to be and what their spiritual gifts and abilities were. These words of direction could often be very long a detailed.
- The Religious Spirit. (*)
The ‘old order’ (Babylon) was what God did in previous generations, and ‘religious’ people were still ‘bound’ to it through fear and legalism. According to the Walk, religious people are characterized by fear and suspicion of anything new; a rigid, legalistic outlook characterized by an unwillingness to move with the Spirit into the ‘new thing’ God was doing. Religious people were seen as spiritually dead because they were into the legalism of Biblical text, but not the life and power of the ‘Living Word’. This religiosity blinded them to the new thing God was doing in the Walk. Hence, anyone who opposed the Walk was blind and religious.
In the Walk, a religious spirit was the antithesis of true spirituality. Therefore, it only followed that anything offensive to a religious person must be good. It was also recognized that religiosity was common to human nature and something to be guarded against personally. So Walk people were always on the guard for any development of religiosity within themselves. Any kind of offensive, irreligious behavior was seen as helping to thwart our own tendencies towards religiosity and cultivate greater personal spirituality. Hence, Walk people strove to be as irreligious as possible and cultivated very offensive behavior. Swearing, rude and offensive behavior was very common in the Walk at all levels. Stevens himself frequently swore from the pulpit during sermons.
A glossary of some common Walk terminology and catch phrases.
“Appropriate”: Claiming and acquiring spiritual gifts, power and attributes
“Babylon”: Old order. Most other churches, especially those who opposed the Walk.
“Be Christ!”, “Be the Word!”: Become the Word made manifest in human flesh like Christ.
“Blowouts”: Those who left the Walk. Spiritual failures that just didn’t have the right stuff.
“Breakthrough!” or “Kingdom Breakthrough” Entering into new spiritual levels.
“Loose”: Such as “Loose the word!” or “We loose faith.” Releasing the spiritual power of the thing loosed in order to create the reality of it. A method of positive proclamation.
“Nephilim”: Human channels of demonic spirits. Most anyone who opposed the Walk.
“Passivity”: Lacking in spiritual violence. A big no-no.
“Rebuke”: “We rebuke passivity tonight.” “We rebuke the Devil.”
“Resurrection power”: The spiritual power of the new kingdom age.
“Violence”: Spiritual intensity necessary for ‘breakthrough.’
“We speak…”: Such as “We speak faith to so-and-so.” A method of imparting something to a person or speaking it into existence in the spiritual realm.
The following is a list of ‘Red Flags’ that are symptoms of deception in a person or group. In developing this list, I was concerned, not so much with addressing specific doctrines, but in identifying characteristics that are symptomatic of deception. I started writing this list when I noticed the many similarities between the Walk and the prophetic movement gaining momentum in Vineyard/Charismatic circles. These characteristics of deception predominate in Charismatic/Vineyard groups and in the Walk.
- Spiritual elitism. This is the root of many delusions. Any kind of elitist belief is a certain indication of deception. Elitism is the belief that God has given a certain group special revelation/power/anointing that other Christian groups or previous generations have not entered into. They are on the spiritual cutting-edge, rising to spiritual levels not attained by other groups. It’s often dressed up as “Joel’s Army”, “Gideon’s Army”, and Elijah Companies of super anointed end-time warriors. Elitism is seen today in the ‘this-is-the-greatest-generation-ever’ kind of preaching we often hear. It can be found in the need to search out so-called ‘deeper’ truths and discover new, hidden mystical insights.
- A tendency to marginalize the written Word. Watch out for any talk that plays down devotion to Scripture, such as “God is bigger than the Bible” or “God is doing a new thing, so put away your Bibles.” Marginalizing the written Word can take many forms:
- Ignoring the Word. Neglecting private Bible study in daily life is a strong symptom of deception.
- Disregarding the Word. A careless attitude towards obedience. I’ve seen examples of this in wild revival meetings in which people mockingly quote the verse, “Let all things be done decently and in order”, while they enjoy a good laugh over their disorderly and drunken behavior. Any teaching that plays down our requirement to be doers of the Word is a sure sign of delusion.
- Deceived groups that marginalize the Word are often those who have an emphasis on prophecy. Beware of any emphasis on the revelatory, prophetic word, especially where there is a sidelining of the written Word. We are not to despise prophecy, but the real meat of the Word that nourishes the saints and builds them up in the faith is the written Word of God, not the prophetic. Teaching that would make Christians dependant on prophets or apostles for ‘current’ truth effectively marginalizes the Word of God.
- “Fools despise knowledge.” Any kind of talk that does not give the Word the high regard it is due, effectively marginalizes the Word and is a sure sign that deception is at work in the group. As the Word says, “Choose my instruction instead of silver.” Love it more than anything else.
- Prayerlessness in private. Neglect of private prayer time, alone with God, is a strong indication of deception. If it is prevalent across a church or movement, it indicates deception is taking hold of that group. Please note that deceived people will often continue to attend and even enjoy public church functions, especially when there is good sound, light or music - but private quite time loses its appeal.
- Disdain for Berean spirited searching of the scriptures. Any kind of anti-Berean, anti-discernment teaching that discourages people from questioning what is going on or being taught is a sure sign of deception. If you ever hear the leadership of your church group say anything along the lines of “put away your Bibles”, or “don’t worry about being deceived”, then head for the exit as fast as you can.
- An inability to separate Godly criticism of their words from personal attack. Equating ‘Berean’ (Acts 17:11) activity with criticism. Such leaders may often talk about the ‘Jezebel spirit’ and the ‘accuser of the brethren’ and warn people about moving in a fault finding or critical spirit. What they are driving at is that if you question what is going on, or challenge what is being taught, you are being critical and run the risk of incurring the Lord’s disfavor.
- Lack of accountability. One common trait among the new wave of apostles and prophets rising to prominence these days is that they do not like to be held accountable for their teachings and failed prophecies. Any criticism of their teachings and prophetic utterances is taken as an attack against their ministry.
- Discernment primarily the prerogative of leadership. A tendency to see discernment as a special gift or anointing not available to everyone to the same degree, or that increases with higher spiritual office. The ‘higher’ you are on the prophetic ladder, the more discerning you are. Since leaders supposedly have better discernment as per their higher office, followers tend to trust the opinions of their leaders over their own, since the ‘apostle’ or prophet must have better understanding anyway due to their higher standing in the spiritual ranks . Believers are not encouraged to trust their own discernment, or are encouraged only so long as it agrees with the overall word as set forth by the leaders. Discernment among the ranks becomes little more than a faculty (an inner witness of the spirit) that confirms what the Apostle or Prophet is saying.
- Any form of Mystery Religion. A mystery religion is a religion that has successive levels of knowledge and ‘deeper’ truths, which are not necessarily available to all, at least not at first. Those in higher levels will know things not revealed, nor available, to lower levels. A new ‘believer’ comes in on the ground floor, and then progresses up through successive levels of spiritual understanding and empowerment as he is introduced to the ‘deeper’ truths.
- Heightened interest with spiritual levels and rankings. Higher ‘spiritual’ rank is equated with greater closeness to God. Gifts and callings are typically ranked, and those higher in rank are seen as closer to God in some practical way, such as hearing from God more frequently and being more privy to God’s inner secrets. Those on higher spiritual levels have a privileged access to God that is not available to those holding lesser callings. As a result of their higher standing or special calling, God visits them more often and they receive greater mystical experiences than the rest.
- Heightened interest in dreams, visions, new revelations and novel insights. This may not necessarily be explicitly stated in their Creed, and they may claim to believe the Bible as the Word of God. But in actual practice dreams, visions and revelations are the preferred stock-in-trade over sound Bible teaching and exposition of the basics.
- An increase in subjectivity. Looking for subjective impressions, personal ‘prophetic’ words and ‘revelation’ for guidance and direction. Seeking the mystical ‘inner voice’ as guide over the written Word. You can be sure that if a person is seeking new personal ‘words’, it is because they are not in the Word, and serious deception cannot be long avoided.
- Detractors dismissed as having inferior vision. They see themselves as being in tune with God, and anyone who is also in tune with the Divine will agree with them. Detractors are obviously not in tune with God and have inferior vision. This sets up a very neat circular reasoning that is almost impossible to get past. It is a defensiveness which is very difficult to penetrate, because they are convinced that detractors don’t have the same level of anointing or discernment as they have. As they see it, if detractors did have the same level of anointing, they’d be in agreement. They dismiss any criticism of their teaching or conduct as bitterness, jealousy or fault finding, while they themselves feel they have very sharp spiritual perception. People are truly discerning only as long as they support their movement.
- Dismissive attitude towards detractors. Detractors given derogatory labels, such as ‘religious’, ‘old order’, ‘old wineskins’, or ‘Pharisees’. Detractors denounced as not being able to ‘handle it’, or they have a ‘Jezebel spirit’, or a ‘spirit of criticism’. They are ‘accusers of the brethren’, that sort of thing. Threats of God’s judgment on detractors and critics are a sure sign of a cultic mindset and delusion.
- A ‘get-on-board-or-else’ mentality. A fear that you’ll miss God’s new move and be left behind if you don’t join up. God is doing a new thing and if you do not go along with it, regardless of how long you’ve been faithfully serving God over the years, God will pass you by and you’ll get left in the dust.
- New thingism. God is doing a ‘new thing’ and you’d better get with it. There is now a further requirement if you want to remain a first class Christian and in God’s highest favour, which is to be a part of the new thing represented by the group. If you don’t come along, you run the risk of God passing you by.
- A special anointing. A certain person or group has been anointed by God to introduce something to the rest of the Body. God has given it to them, and other believers can come to them to ‘get it.’
- A priesthood. Placing a person or group in an exalted status with God, so that they become special intermediaries, is a sure sign of delusion. False movements and false religions invariable try to interject some kind of priesthood between the believer and God. This is seen whenever a person or group claims to have received something from God that can be received from their hands. They become an intermediary between you and Jesus Christ if you want more of God, and people are encouraged to go to the ‘anointed’ of the Lord to get it.
We see this today in certain revival circles where it is necessary to get more from God at the hands of a specially chosen vessel. Worship leaders have ‘an anointing’ to lead us into the presence of God. Prophets and apostles have a privileged access to receive things from God that the rest of the church needs. False religion always reverts to some form of human priesthood.
- “Don’t think about it, just jump in” type of teaching that encourages people to throw caution to the wind. Encouraging followers not to worry or think things through, that God won’t allow them to be deceived. Just jump in before it’s too late or you may miss the boat.
- Glorification of the vessel. An excessive focus on the ‘anointed’ person of God.
- Old Testament ‘typed’ anointing. (A ‘Phineas’ anointing. The mantle of Elijah, etc.)
- An excited interest in peripheral subjects not central to the gospel. A de-emphasis on the central themes of the gospel. They claim to agree with the gospel, but the bulk of their teaching, writing and prophetic messages show a greater interest in peripheral topics, novel insights and new revelation.
- May talk unity, but bring division along lines of gender, age, race or nationality.
- Watch out for leaders who love to surround themselves with minions who affirm their special anointing.
- More interest in breaking through to new levels and remaking the church along new lines rather than reaching the lost with the good news of Jesus Christ.
- False spirits love to show off and love center stage. They love to parade their subjective impressions and experiences up front for others to see. Publicly sharing highly subjective impressions and insights that cannot be proved or disproved one way or the other is a real “Red Flag”.
- Conference chasing. Running from place to place to meet God. Any emphasis on experiencing God corporately more than privately is a symptom of delusion. Whenever people need to go to a conference or certain location to receive a ‘fresh’ touch, something is very wrong.
There is a whole generation of believers now who are bored with ‘quiet time’ alone with God, who don’t know how to meet God in the prayer closet, and can only meet with God and experience Him in public settings that provide the right mood and atmosphere, usually involving the right music. The reason so many are chasing God at conferences is because they are not in the Word and prayer at home.
- The ‘anointed’ leader has a privileged access, a hot relationship, with God that the rest have yet to attain. They get angelic visitations, dramatic visions and prophetic insights, and they publish ‘prophetic bulletins’ to keep others abreast with what God is doing. Because the apostles and prophets are in such a privileged position of receiving the latest hot word from God, the rest are reduced to second hand status, anxiously awaiting the latest prophetic bulletin. Watch for groups that tend to place emphasis on the leaders anointing or relationship with God. This results in Christians running to conferences for a ‘fresh touch’ from those who seem to have ‘it’.
- The Holy Spirit is seen more as coming to bring an experience rather than a greater understanding of the Scripture.
- A tendency to distinguish between people who accept their movement as a true move of God and those who don’t.
- Beware of any dichotomy between the Spirit and the mind. Any anti-intellectual position, such as the belief held in many charismatic circles today that exercising the mind will hinder the Holy Spirit, is a real indication of deception. Deceivers like to parrot phrases like: “God will offend the mind to reveal the heart.” This cute little mantra often repeated in certain revival groups sounds very spiritual, but is very false. A careful reading of the Word tells us the truth: God will inform the mind to convince the heart. Jesus often did offend the Pharisee’s - by telling them the truth! The Holy Spirit leads people to Christ by shining the light of God’s Word into their minds and convicting them of its truth.
The difference between a cult and a legitimate group is relationship, not doctrine. Although it will usually follow that a cultic group will also endorse heretical doctrine, that is not what makes it a cult. Other, non-Christian religions will embrace doctrines contrary to Christian faith. That does not necessarily make them cults. A group is defined as cultic by the dependant/controlling relationship that forms between the leader of the group and his followers. The leader acquires an inappropriate level of control over the individuals of a group by fostering personal dependence upon him as the source and definer of truth. A cultic group has a strong, influential leader who knows how to encourage followers to remain personally dependent upon him for truth, purpose and guidance.
In developing this list, I was more interested in showing the characteristics of a cult as opposed to addressing specific heretical teachings; cultic symptoms rather than specific doctrinal aberrations.
My reason for this approach is twofold: First, specific heresies will change from one cult to another, but there are certain characteristics which remain fairly consistent between cults by which a cultic group can be identified. Secondly, and perhaps more ominously, large segments of the charismatic church are becoming very cultic in practice even though they may claim to believe the major tenets of Christian faith. Most of these traits were very characteristic of the Walk, and are becoming very common in Vineyard and Charismatic circles.
- Loyalty to charismatic leadership over Scripture. The primary characteristic of a cultic mindset is devotion to leadership over an objective standard of truth. Cultic followers have an excessive devotion to popular teachers, and are unwilling or disinclined to question them. They place too much trust in leadership without exercising independent, critical thought that resorts to objective standards of information outside of the group. This mindset is very predominant in Vineyard and Charismatic circles, seen in the almost blind trust placed in prophetic leadership. This is evident in their willingness to believe what they are told, as long as the right person says it. They are disinclined to exercise independent, critical thought and search the scriptures to see if what is being taught is true.
- Believing what’s said based on WHO says it. Truth is determined by what the leaders say. The cultic-mindset determines the acceptability of what is said more by who says it rather than how well it conforms to the Word of God. This mindset is predominant in the Walk, and has become predominant in Vineyard/Charismatic and “TB” circles. Today, anyone can say almost anything in a Charismatic/ Vineyard crowd and get away with it, as long as they have the right type of ‘loving’, charismatic personality and appear to move in spiritual gifts. In other words, as long as the ministry package looks good, they tend to accept the contents of the teaching with little question.
- An unwillingness to question leaders. Idolizing leaders and placing them on a pedestal. Quick to excuse and overlook their faults. Leaders will often take doubts and questions as a personal attack. Questioning the leader is viewed as rebellion, stubbornness, or spiritualized as a demonic ploy to undermine ‘God’s anointed’.
- Fear of disapproval by the group. A fearfulness of saying something that the leaders and/or others in the group may not approve of.
- Elitist and exclusive. They think of themselves as the spiritual cutting-edge. An excessive need for acceptance and belonging to an ‘inner circle’. A fear of being left out of Gods new thing is one expression of this.
- Dismissive attitude towards those outside the group. A disregard for what others say and think who are not in the group.
- A polarized “In or Out”, “Us” versus “Them” attitude towards those outside the ‘movement’. Those outside the ‘move’ are given derogatory labels. It is considered that those outside don’t have what it takes to be apart of the superior goals of the group. This is often seen in the ‘get-on-board-with-this-move-or-you’ll-miss-it’ style of preaching often seen in charismatic circles.
- Those outside the group just don’t understand.
- Lack of tolerance for dissent. Dissenters threatened with divine punishment. Dissent, doubt and questioning are not tolerated and perceived as a personal attack on the leadership. They have difficulty separating the message from the messenger. (Need I bother pointing out here that “TB” revival leaders are well-known for attacking dissenters, and threatening them with judgment from God?)
- Rational thought is discouraged. Group experience over loyalty to truth. Don’t think about it, just jump in. Don’t stop to analyze, just be open to what the ‘spirit’ is doing.
- The superior ends of the group justify the means. Revival leaders are well known for their pragmatic approach to the ‘truth’. If it works, it’s OK.
- Group leaders determine how followers should think and what is ‘true’. Truth and reality (paradigm) are determined within the context of the group. People with a cultic-mindset tend to submerge their own thoughts under the thoughts of the leader and group. They have greater confidence in the opinions of others than of their own.
- A lack of discretion and independent thought. Pro.2:11 states that “discretion will protect you”. Discretion is the ability to think for yourself; to exercise independent thought or action according to one’s own judgment. Cultic followers are noticeably lacking in this ability, so they are easily persuaded by a dynamic and charismatic leader. They find it difficult to stand back with a measure of detachment and evaluate things with a cool head in the light of God’s Word.
- Cultic persons gravitate towards dependence upon a ‘priesthood’ for their contact with God. This ‘priesthood’ can take the form of an ‘anointed’ person, a prophet, an apostle, or anyone who receives from God for the follower. Cultic persons place excessive trust in the leader and the leader’s so-called contact with God.
- Accusative self-doubt in relation to leadership. It can take the form of self-doubting questions such as: Who do I think I am, anyway? Who am I to question what the leaders are saying? What makes me think I was right and so many big name ministries are wrong?
- Lack of recourse and accountability outside the group. Little if any accountability outside the group. Members of the group take little recourse outside the group for information or help as far as the defining ‘truths’ and purpose of the group are concerned.
The Bible has a lot to say about drunkenness, spiritual or otherwise. And none of it is good. With the Biblical tools we have available today, there is no reason for anyone to be deceived about the “Laughing Revival”. A Bible and concordance was all I needed to find out for myself the truth behind so-called ‘spiritual drunkenness’.
One night, while I was still unsure about the ‘Laughing Revival’ (and frankly, I was at that time still leaning in favour of it and hoping to have my suspicions allayed) I sat down with my NIV Bible and concordance and simply did a word study to see what the Bible had to say. I wasn’t expecting to find much when I started, and once I got past the 2 or 3 isolated verses favored by TB supporters (we’ll look at those last), I was very surprised to discover just how much the Bible had to say regarding this phenomena.
Spiritual drunkenness is a sign of a deep spiritual sleep and blindness:
Isaiah 29:9-14. “Be stunned and amazed, blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine; stagger, but not from beer. The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: he has sealed your eyes (the prophets);” Verses 11,12 further describe these people as being unable to understand God’s Word. Then, verse 13: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men. Therefore … the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.”
I don’t know how much clearer the Word of God could be. Spiritual drunkenness (“drunk, but NOT from wine”), far from being a sign of God’s blessing and favor, is a sign that the following spiritual conditions and judgments have fallen upon a group professing to worship God: 1) they are blind, 2) they have fallen into a deep sleep spiritually, 3) their prophets are blind, 4) they’ve lost the ability to properly understand God’s Word (sealed v.11,12). The reason for all this is given in verse 13. This group of people has, over time, professed to love and worship God, but they have departed from obedience to His Word and have insisted on trying to come to God on their own terms.
Spiritual drunkenness is a sign of being under God’s judgment:
Isaiah 28:1,3. “Ephraim’s drunkards”. Ephraim was a name for the northern tribes of Israel, who were at that time seriously backslidden and about to be judged. Obviously, the Bible is not casting ‘drunkard’ in a good light.
Is.49:26. “drunk on their own blood” in judgment.
Is.51:21. “made drunk, not with wine” under God’s judgment.
Is.63:6. “in my [God’s] wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.”
Jer.48:26. “Make her drunk, for she has defied the Lord.” Israel’s neighbour, Moab, is made drunk because she has defied the Lord!
Deut. 29:18-21. This passage describes a person who invokes the promises and protection of God’s covenant, but disregards it’s conditions. He has turned away from obedience to the Lord, yet invokes the Lord’s blessing and protection and thinks to himself: “I shall have peace.”
Verse 19 (NKJV). “ ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ - as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”
Verse 19 (NIV). The NIV footnote offers the following alternative translation: “ ‘I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way’ - in order to add drunkenness to thirst.”
Deut.29:18-21 indicates that spiritual drunkenness is a sign that the drunkards have invoked the blessing of the covenant for themselves, yet walk after their own heart.
Jeremiah 51: A warning to flee because a greater judgment is coming!
I recommend a careful reading of Jeremiah 51, with particular attention paid to verses 6-9 and 37-45, in conjunction with Rev. 17:1-6, 18:1-8. Babylon was a real city in Jeremiah’s day that the Lord was about to judge, but Babylon is also a Biblical type of apostate religion.
Note: For those who are unsure about using the Old Testament in this manner, please look at the following passages: 1 Cor.10:6,11; 2 Peter 2,3; Heb.10:29-31, 2:1-3, 12:25-27 and Jude. Paul and the other NT writers clearly considered that the judgments of God recorded in the OT were still very relevant warnings to us under the NT. See also 2Tim.3:16 “ALL scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”.
v6,8,9: Spiritual drunkenness is an indication that the church is about to be severely judged, and a warning to the sober minded who still remain to get out before it is too late. “Flee from Babylon! Run for your lives!”
v7,8: “Babylon was a gold cup in the Lord’s hand[an instrument of judgment]; she made the whole earth drunk. The nations drank her wine; therefore they have now gone mad. Babylon will suddenly fall and be broken.” Not only was Babylon under judgment, but she was an instrument of judgment in the Lord’s hands. Certain ‘revival’ centers made the whole earth drunk, as multitudes poured in from around the globe to partake. The results of many deluded pastors who ‘fetched’ the blessing in Toronto/Pensacola and brought it back to their home church can only be described as ‘madness’, as hundreds of churches were devastated.
v37,38: “Babylon will be a heap of ruins, a haunt of jackals,…Her people all roar like
lion cubs.” – animal noises, roaring like lions.
v38a: “while they are AROUSED, I will set out a FEAST for them” – it’s party time!
v38b: “and make them DRUNK,” – spiritual drunkenness!
v38c: “so that they SHOUT with LAUGHTER” – ‘holy’ laughter.
“then SLEEP forever and not awake, declares the Lord.”
v40-44: And then final judgment is to follow, “I will bring them down…to the
v45: The final call for God’s people to get out while they still can. “Come out of her, my
people! Run for your lives!”
This makes it pretty clear. Here we have a people being aroused to party, shout and laugh, roar like lions and get ‘drunk’ just before they are judged. The Bible describes in many places that immediately before severe judgment, people are given over to a “party” spirit: a fun-loving, amusement mad, self-gratifying wild party time! See Is.56:12; Amos 6:1-6; Micah 2:11; Is.22:2,13; The inhabitants of Jerusalem threw parties as the Babylonian army surrounded their city. Ezek.21:10 (Amp and NKJV) “Shall we then rejoice and make mirth?” [when the sword of judgment has been sharpened against us.]
More Old Testament references to drunkenness:
The following passages also refer to drunkenness as an indication or sign of being under the displeasure of God and judgment.
Ezekiel 23:33. “filled with drunkenness and sorrow, the cup of ruin and desolation”
Nahum 1:10, 3:11. Nineveh drunk under the judgment of God. “You too will become drunk”.
Hab.2:15-16. Woe to him who gives drink, making his neighbour drunk. Now it is your turn, drink and be exposed! The word ‘be exposed’ used here can also mean ‘stagger’ according to the NIV footnote.
Is.24:19-21. The earth reels like a drunkard under God’s judgment.
Joel 1:5, “Wake up, you drunkards.”
Ecc. 10:16-17. Blessed is the land who’s King is noble, who princes eat at the proper time for strength and NOT FOR DRUNKENNESS.”
Jer.13:13. The Lord fills the kings, priests and prophets with drunkenness before he judges them.
Amos 6:6. “You drink wine by the bowlful”
Micah 2:11. The deceiver says: “I will prophesy for you plenty of wine and beer!”
Is.56:9-12. “Let us drink our fill of beer!”
Biblical References to ‘staggering’:
Staggering ‘under the influence’ is a common occurrence at TB style revival meetings. Interestingly, the Bible also has a lot to say about staggering.
Job 12:25.“They grope in darkness with no light; he makes them stagger like drunkards.”
Psalm 60:1-3.“You have rejected us…you have given us wine that makes us stagger.”
Is 19:11-15. “the leaders of Memphis are deceived;…The Lord has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit.” Clearly not a sign of God’s blessing, but of His judgment upon foolish and deceived leadership.
Is. 28:1-16. The drunkards of Ephraim… “stagger at seeing visions”, “reeling like drunkards”
Pro.24:11. “staggering towards slaughter”
Is.3:8. “Jerusalem staggers” under judgment because their words and deeds are against the Lord.
Jer.25:15-29. In this passage, the Lord has filled a cup filled with the wine of His wrath and makes the nations drink from it. Drinking from the cup of God’s wrath causes them to “stagger and go mad” before they are brought to judgment. V.27 “drink, get drunk and vomit, and fall to rise no more”
Is. 51:17. The cup of God’s wrath is “the goblet that makes men stagger.”
Roaring like a lion:
Jer.12:8 “she [my people] roars at me, therefore I hate her.”
Jer 52:38 the people of Babylon [who are under judgment] roar like lions
Zeph.3:1-4 “Woe to the city [referring to a wicked city under sentence of God’s judgement]…Her officials are roaring lions…”
Is. 5:25-30 Israel’s enemies roar like lions when they come to devour her.
Ezek.22:25 false prophets roar like lions.
I Peter 5:8 The Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Jer. 2:15 “Lions have roared” in judgement.
New Testament references to drunkenness:
Lk.12:45; Mt.24:48-50 - The unfaithful servant gets drunk.
I Cor 5:11; 6:10 - Drunkards will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Lk.21:34-36; Ro.13:11-14; Gal.5:19-21; 1Pet.4:3; I Thess.5:4-8. -
Drunkenness is sinful and will be judged.
The Word of God clearly censors drunken behavior. There are an overwhelming number of verses in the New Testament which ascribe self-control, self-discipline, order, decency, and sobriety as a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Why then would the Holy Spirit ever induce people to mimic behavior that is censored in the Word and contrary to His own nature?
And finally, the two proof texts most often cited in support of ‘spiritual drunkenness’:
Let’s take a look at the 2 passages of Scripture used by “TB” supporters in an attempt to lend Biblical credibility to their drunkenness. They are Acts 2:13 and Eph. 5:18. We’ll take a look at each separately.
- Acts 2:13, “They have had too much wine.”
We will look at the entire context of the chapter, from verse 1 to the end. In Acts 2:13, it was only the MOCKERS who were making fun that said they were drunk. I do not think we should take our queue from those mocking Peter and the believers. Other than that, there is no evidence in the text that they were acting like drunks, and all the evidence clearly indicates the opposite. Peter got up and preached a clear, coherent, hard-hitting gospel sermon that cut the Jews listening to him to the heart with conviction of sin. He did not display anything like drunken behavior. Peter’s behavior was nothing like the revival drunkards who love to stagger around, slurring and stammering so much that they can hardly put a coherent sentence together, let alone an entire sermon that can bring 3000 new converts into the Church in one day. The rest of the 120 that came out of the upper room with Peter were speaking in real foreign languages, clearly understandable to the foreigners visiting Jerusalem at the time, proclaiming the “wonders of God” (Acts 2:11). These people were anything but drunk! Whatever ‘spirit’ the Toronto people are moving in, it’s not the same Spirit at work in Acts 2.
- Eph. 5:18, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.”
Read the surrounding verses from 5:8-5:20 carefully: Paul wasn’t comparing the condition of being Spirit filled to drunkenness, he was contrasting it! From verses 8 through 18, notice the contrasts he makes between pairs of opposites: light/darkness, wise/unwise, understanding/foolishness, and finally drunk/spirit filled. You were once darkness, but now you are light (v.8); not unwise, but wise (v.15); don’t be foolish, but understanding (v.17); don’t be drunk, instead be filled with the Spirit (v.18).
The verse says: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Do not get drunk – it leads to debauchery! Notice the word ‘instead’, indicating a contrasting opposite. Paul was contrasting being filled with the Spirit to drunkenness, NOT likening it.
In their foolishness, revival drunks actually turn that around to say, “Woohoo, lets party and get drunk in the Spirit!” The debauchery Paul warns against in v.18 is just what we are seeing in the wild party atmosphere that now reigns in revival churches. The vast number of verses in the New Testament that tell us the Holy Spirit is a Spirit of order and sobriety are stunning. Self-control, sobriety, and order are fruits of the Spirit, and nowhere does it say the Holy Spirit is a spirit of drunkenness. Therefore, spiritual drunkenness, staggering, slurred speech cannot be the work of the Holy Spirit of God, as that would be inconsistent with the nature of the Holy Spirit according to Scripture. Surely what Isaiah said is true of them: “The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes … For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll.” (29:10,11)
I would like to offer the following conclusions based on the evidence of God’s Word.
- ‘Drunkenness’ is a form of spiritual judgment upon a church or group professing the name of the Lord yet have departed from obedience to the truth. According to the Bible passages we have looked at, spiritual drunkenness is a form of God’s judgment on a church for the following reasons, as well as being a signal to others that the church has fallen into these conditions:
- They are deceived.
- They are blind – have little or no discernment left.
- Their priests and prophets are backslidden.
- They have tolerated false prophets in their midst.
- They have tolerated bad, questionable teaching.
- They give God lip-service, but have turned away from a carefulness to follow His law. In other words, they love to sing to the Lord on Sunday, but are carnal or even sinful through the week.
- They want to serve and worship the Lord on their own terms; set their own altars.
- They have ignored the Lord’s Word.
- They have sought experience over truth.
- Their shepherds are asleep, and have allowed the enemy in.
- ‘Drunkenness’ is a signal that another, much more severe judgment is coming!
More ominously, in these Bible passages, drunkenness preceded severe judgment. It is a signal that much greater judgment will follow the drunken party.
- ‘Drunkenness’ is a last call to get out!
Finally, I believe it is a last call to the sober minded who still remain in these churches to get out as fast as they can. It’s a clear signal to flee while you still can because time is running out fast.
In Jer.51, the drunken party (v.39) preceded final judgment (40-44). Other passages listed above bear this pattern out as well. Verse 45 - “Come out of her, my people! Run for your lives! Run from the fierce anger of the Lord.” and again in v.6 the call is repeated to “Run for your lives!” If these passages are to be believed, than spiritual drunkenness in a church is a warning from God to GET OUT NOW. Don’t hang around such churches even out of curiosity just to see what happens. From these verses, we can gather that it will not be safe to be in these groups when the next judgment arrives. There is no point in speculating what form the next wave of judgment may take, but it will be very severe and of such a nature that being in these groups when it comes will be incredibly dangerous and foolish. It would be foolish to take His Word lightly and disregard the clear warning signals God has given us.
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water ill flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.” John 7:37-39
There is a lot of talk about the ‘river’ of God and intimacy with Christ these days. Christians by the thousands are flocking to conferences centers to swim in the river. The pursuit of God in this day involves chasing God from conference to conference seeking a fresh touch. I have no doubt that some do in fact have an encounter with God, because God is sovereign and He can meet His children anywhere, but on the whole this movement is deeply flawed and not born of the true Spirit of God. We can know this because it does not follow the Biblical pattern for gaining true closeness with God. Rather, it places emphasis on receiving ‘blessings’ and ‘fresh touches’ at the hands of another who seemingly has ‘it’.
Any true believer, who has come to Christ in genuine repentance and total surrender of life, will be born from above by the Spirit of God and experience the regenerating life of Christ within his soul. Through the new birth, the soul comes into vital contact with the living God, and the life of God flows in. This life brings a new power for holy living, new desires in life, and the old appetites for sin and the world fade away. Sometimes sin or carelessness in the life of the Christian will cause a blockage which hinders the life giving flow of God, but the remedy is repentance.
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Our relationship with God can only be cultivated by devoting daily plenty of time to seek Him through prayer and study of His Word. It seems that Christians today have lost their patience for this, and would rather dash of to fun filled church meetings to have the ‘anointed’ man or woman touch them for a faster, more direct ‘impartation’. The prayer closets are empty, but church conferences are packed with seekers listening to talk of intimacy.
Having someone touch us, pray over us, impart blessings or a ‘fresh touch’ cannot make up for the neglect of our spiritual roots. Whatever these believers are experiencing, I doubt very much that it is bringing them into a truer knowledge of God. We must go to the seller of oil directly for ourselves in order to receive. What I see happening before me on such a large scale in what calls itself the Church of Jesus Christ has little to do with true intimacy with God, and is in fact a massive rebellion against the very intimacy they so loudly claim to seek. The foolish virgins are madly running around, looking for another to give them more oil. What a sad parody of the true relationship with God that Christ has made possible for us in the New Testament!
Feeling dry? Instead of running out to some conference to receive a ‘fresh touch’ from an ‘anointed’ person, examine your private devotional life. How’s your “Quiet Time”? Are you neglecting His Word? Ignoring Him through prayerlessness? Is there any sin? Any carelessness in devotion? Check for unforsaken sin or negligence of duty. Bring your sin to the cross and He has promised to forgive you and “give you grace to help.”
The true ‘River’ of God runs through the prayer closet, not a conference center. The single greatest reason so many Christians feel ‘dry’ is because they are not in the Word and in prayer at home. Consequently, they are easily seduced by the ‘Laughing Revival’ and other false movements. And they have tried to make up for this lack of spirituality in their private lives with lively, rousing public worship and busy activities.
Devote yourself daily to the holy task of knowing Him by seeking Him in His Word and prayer. Turn off the amusements of the world with which you normally entertain yourself, and learn to find all your delight in Him. True spiritual revival can only begin in the prayer closet. Then the Lord will be able to use you to reach the lost around you.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure,
They are more precious than gold,
They are sweeter than honey,
By them is your servant warned.
I think that one of the highest crimes in the church today is a leadership that encourages people to come out to church, or attend the latest conference, to receive a “fresh touch” at the hands of another, but does not teach nor encourage their people to get alone with God daily in prayer and the Word. What is presently being touted in revival circles as intimacy with God is not true intimacy at all but a cheap counterfeit experience which is leading the people away from a true relationship with Christ. The true River of God is flowing through my prayer closet.
For ease of use the terms ‘charismatic’ or ‘charismatic movement’ in this article will include the entire broad spectrum of Vineyard, TACF, ‘Toronto’ churches, ‘Kansas City’ churches, as well as the Charismatic church.
The Latter Rain was a revival in the late 40’ and 50’s beginning in North Battleford, Saskatchewan which quickly spread throughout the world. Although it seemed to start out well enough, it quickly developed many aberrant teachings and moved into heresy, and the occult.
Branham not only influenced Stevens, but most of the ‘prophets’ and ministries that came out of the LR, including Paul Cain, now a major leader in the current prophetic movement in Kansas City. Branham, his life and teachings are well documented and easy to find on the web. See www.letusreason.org/Latrain4.htm
This is very similar to Gnosticism, a prominent heresy in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and has survived in one form or another to this day. The Gnostic isn’t content to believe God by taking Him at His Word as written, but wants to have an inner mystical sense that tells him what is true so that he will ‘know’. The Gnostic requires a mystical experience to confirm the truth.
Over the years I’ve noticed that this as a common characteristic of a certain class of Christian often involved with what is now popularly called ‘spiritual warfare’. They take a perverse pride in the demonic attacks they suffer, taking that as some kind of sign that they must really be moving in higher spiritual realms in order for the devil to take such notice of them. People like this can often be heard complaining about all the spiritual attacks they suffer.
TACF was the progenitor of a phenomenon which began in early 1994 and quickly spread to other churches around the world. Characterized by outbreaks of uncontrollable laughter, and all manner of drunken and bizarre behavior, it came to be known as the Laughing Revival or the ‘Toronto Blessing’.
The Toronto Revival came to be known as the Toronto Blessing or the Laughing Revival. It was characterized by outbreaks of uncontrollable laughter, people imitating animal behavior and noises, large numbers staggering and falling down, and all manner of drunken and bizarre behavior.
This attitude is a classic example of spiritual elitism (Gnosticism), which makes it very difficult for those so affected to receive Godly and beneficial criticism from concerned Christians outside the ‘camp’.
The few cases in Scripture of people receiving the Spirit at the hands of another were new converts who had not yet received the Holy Spirit. There are no examples of believers who have already received the Holy Spirit needing someone to touch them for more.
One of the main characteristics of a cultic mindset is the propensity to believe what is said based on the personality of the speaker rather than an objective standard of truth. See the chapter: Summary of the cultic mindset.
For a very complete and accurate description of Walk theology and history, I highly recommend the report produced by the Spiritual Counterfeits Project on the Walk: "John Robert Stevens and the Church of the Living Word (The Walk)", unpublished manuscript from Spiritual Counterfeits Project, P.O. Box 4308, Berkeley, CA 94704
I am not inferring by this that the charismatic movement endorses the Walk, or even knows about it. It is very likely that most people in the Vineyard and Charismatic movements have never heard of the Walk.
I feel I must point out again here, that this is a highly cultic mindset, a chief characteristic of cult followers, AND IT PREDOMINATES IN THE VINEYARD and many CHARISMATIC church groups. This is not at all what the Bible means by submission and obedience to the Word and to those in authority!
I am not suggesting here that we are to have that kind of arrogance that won’t listen to others. That’s not a healthy mindset either. Godly men and women will listen to, and give serious consideration to, the opinions of other godly people whom they know to be walking in holiness and obedience to the Word of God. But the criteria for judging what we think and what others tell us is the Word of God, not WHO says it.
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.