Word of Faith (& Prosperity Teachings)
Word of Faith (also known as Word-Faith or simply Faith Teachings) is a doctrine in many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches as well as individual ministries worldwide. It is akin to Prosperity teaching, but not completely identical - usually both are preached together. The movement emphasizes speaking, stating, or confessing verses found in the Bible, in orer to activate them (almost automatically) aside from the will of God.
Prosperity teaching applies the Word of Faith technique of claiming the promises in the bible to wealth, well-being, prosperity, advancement and success as well as healing and even cheating death. It is taught that financial blessing is the will of God for all Christians, and that faith, positive speaking, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one's material wealth. In a similar way, perfect health is taught as the gold standard of the bible and through faith Christians should claim and believe for this at all times. Being ill therefore is often condemned as a "lack of faith".
I do not like putting my own testimony online, because that seems self-indulgent. I would not do so simply for reasons of arrogance. But in the interests of helping others, I would like to share my own experiences with Positive Confession or Word-Faith or the Word of Faith Movement.
LED INTO THE PATH
I was born again in 1965 within the sphere of the UK Anglican church, and fellowshipped in various denominations, some of them charismatic. By the 1980's the Charismatic Renewal was well under way, but it was turning towards Restorationism. I felt disappointed with that, and at the same time dissatisfied with the level of spirituality of the normal British church, and felt a need to seek out more lively fellowship. A friend told me about Kenneth Copeland's ministry which was just then trying to establish itself. I began to receive his magazine, and friends lent me his tapes.
This seemed just what I was looking for! It was fresh, positive, exciting, and full of deeper biblical knowledge. I wanted to move on. I wanted to know God in a deeper way, and to fellowship with those who did not sneer at miracles. The Copeland Ministry was one of the few ministries that approved of the gifts of the Spirit. They also seemed to go further than just the routine evangelistic scriptures, and to be unafraid of shaking the conventional "religious" establishment.
Instead of dour negativism and lack-lustre worship, the Copeland Ministry seemed alive with life. Far from being afraid and suspicious of spiritual things, the Copelands actually encouraged them. In place of a resigned attitude of "we must accept pain and suffering" the Copelands preached victory, healing, and the defeat of the devil. We didn't need to be defeated any more - Jesus had won the battle and had set us free! All this was music to my ears.
And speaking of music ---! The music of the ministry was gloriously upbeat, full of victorious confessions of faith. It lifted my spirits and helped focus my mind on the positive side of the Bible.
In fact, there just wasn't anything else like it at the time, in the UK. In the 80's we began to be very concerned about the Shepherding doctrines, and the Charismatic Renewal eventually went down the Restoration path. But (at that time) the Word-of-Faith Movement came out against Shepherding and the two Movements did not mix. Indeed, one WOF leader, Hobart Freedman, wrote a major article against the shepherding doctrines. So that was another reason for making the WOF choice.
But often we swallow the bait, not realising there's a hook inside it. It was some time before I found blood in my mouth from chewing on that hook.
Eventually, I had the opportunity to attend one of the Copeland conferences, being held in Britain for the first time. It was arranged at a small theatre complex in Birmingham, and compared with today's Conferences it was small. Only a few hundred attended. Copeland's ministry in the UK was a minority interest.
Nonetheless, it was exciting to see the Copelands on stage for the first time. Somehow I expected more, but the thrill of the moment kept me going. It was unusual for me to meet so many positive-minded Christians, and apart from the meetings in which we wrote copious notes, we enjoyed most of all the communal praise and worship for which British Christians are famous, and fellowshipping with hundreds of like-minded believers. This was new and very uplifting.
The Copeland Ministry, however, badly misjudged the needs of the British. They hadn't done their homework! They expected us to be as sophisticated as the Americans in our worship and church life, not realising that the churches of the UK are staid, old, small and totally non-commercial.
So, it was a mistake to bring a professional singer with a backing band, and send her onstage like a TV act. The audience sat quiet (stunned) throughout, and gave a polite clap at the end. This was not right - performances in a Christian meeting! It was almost as bad as putting on a play in the local church.
After a couple of "spots" the poor lady realised she was up against it, and gave up trying. The Copelands learned their lesson. They didn't bring other performers until we Brits had been re-educated in such things!
What we wanted was corporate singing of choruses. This was in the style of the Pentecostals, and Holiness groups, with a dash of Anglican hymn-singing thrown in. We were used to corporate worship, and that's how we praised God in song, NOT by listening to a solo performance from a professional act!!! (Oh, how things have changed!)
Anyway, despite that we forgave the Copelands, and enjoyed the meetings. We bought a pile of booklets (the high prices for these was a shock but we were told how we needed to support the ministry, and in any case any money we spent would be repaid to us under the principle of the "hundredfold".)
WAS COPELAND A FALSE PROPHET?
On a high after the Conferences, we were not in a mood to be brought down to earth. But there were those who tried to turn our heads away from our beloved Copelands, and to point out some problems.
One troubling thing was a prophecy that Ken Copeland had given at the 1983 Full Gospel Businessmen's National Convention in Birmingham, UK. I had a printed copy of this, and it promised some specific things about Britain.
The Prophecy, given in June 1983, said that our time and our hour had come, and the visitation of the Lord had come to England. It said the revival had come, and would grow. It promised "tens of thousands" of conversions and a mighty flood of the power of the Spirit from coast to coast. AND HE PROMISED THIS BY MID 1983.
He prophesied that, by September 1983, the amount of people in the conference hall would have doubled, and by October it would have tripled. Then followed promises that we are now familiar with, about people falling at our feet in supermarkets, and our faces shining with the glory and the whole nation coming under conviction - and so on.
Even I had to admit he'd been wrong. At the Conference I'd just attended there were probably FEWER attending, not MORE. The great revival had clearly not happened, and the doubling and tripling of numbers at the Copeland meetings had also not occurred. How could I explain this? Was Copeland a false prophet?
Well, in my eyes, definitely not. I had found something good, and a minor hiccup would not deter me from the path. The Copelands were all I needed, spiritually mature, strong and full of wisdom. Maybe they made a few mistakes - but so what? So I shoved this to the back of my mind, and logged it under "unexplained mysteries".
The Lord Tries to open My Eyes
After the annual Conference, things settled down to routine again. I was practising all the things I was reading, speaking affirmations, taking authority over my body and my circumstances, calling things into being that were not, and sowing seeds financially - money that we did not have and could not afford. Yet I was soaring in the rarefied atmosphere of "faith" and whatever I visualised I claimed was mine, evidence or no.
I rarely had any physical encouragement to believe. Once or twice there were healings of headaches or colds, but usually I had to admit my confessions and visualisation and affirmations made no difference to my material circumstances. That didn't put me off, though. I knew I had to develop my faith by memorising the words of scripture, so I bought scripture tapes and sang scripture choruses to help myself bury the Word deep in my mind.
It was all hard work, but I was prepared to do any amount of hard work to reap the rewards that the Copelands so obviously had (at least, so I read in their magazines.) They talked about major miracles happening like the restoration of a crippled baby, blind eyes seeing again, cancers disappearing. I'd never witnessed such things, and I longed to see miracles at a meeting, so I looked forward to the 1985 Conference with great anticipation.
From time to time our friends would criticise the Faith teachers, and I was indignant and angry - very defensive about the Copelands, and Hagin, and the other people we had come to know and love as our Teachers in Faith. When people said they were living in luxury, owning grand houses, planes, cars and so on, I would defend them hotly. After all, they were God's ministers, and He was rewarding them! Why shouldn't they be blessed financially - they had sowed the seed and now God was repaying the hundredfold.
And healing - my faith was absolute that NO illness or disease should come upon a believer who was living in the faith realm. I understood perfectly that Jesus had taken all disease at the Cross, and therefore we had complete authority over it. Whenever I felt any kind of physical discomfort, prayer would be my first port of call, and I despised any who turned to pills or the Doctor. Medical intervention was a sign of weak faith!
It would have done no good whatsoever to point out to me that, despite my high level of faith and my profound grasp of the scriptures, I had exactly the same amount of physical problems as any other Christian in my fellowship. It probably puzzled me at the time, but it would have done no good to point this out to me. Everything could be explained by my lack of faith. I just wasn't doing it right. I had to work harder to know the scriptures and to confess them even bolder than before, that was all. If ONLY I could get rid of my doubts, and be in perfect faith!
Anything that opened me to doubt and "negativity" I ruthlessly rejected or destroyed. I would not listen to tapes that criticised the Faith message. I would not read the books or booklets I was offered about the fallacies of the Movement. These, in my mind, were all judgmental and jealous attacks written by people who had no understanding of the ways of the Spirit. They would only tend to lead me into doubt, so I turned off my mind and refused to look at them.
The money problem will seem familiar to anyone who has gone down this path. Jon and I longed to be able to pay off our debts, to make ends meet, and to end the ceaseless worry about money matters. We knew the theory - send your tenpercent tithe every month to your Church or ministry as your seed, and expect God to bless you financially. And give beyond that title as a love offering, even if you can't afford it, because God will repay.
Oh yes, we knew the theory, and we believed it absolutely. Nobody can criticise us for sowing in doubt. We faithfully sowed our seeds of money, and we tithed every single month, ten percent of our income. The trouble is, we simply could not afford to give away that much every month. It made no economic sense whatsoever. We were giving out of our need, as they say, but never reaping. Strange.
God did bless us in our ignorance and he kept us afloat, but as for "the hundredfold" - where was it? Not that we looked for reward, but it would have been nice to make ends meet occasionally.
It was a black day for me when we finally admitted we could no longer afford to give away so much of our income. That is anathema to the Faith teaching! What? Not give your ten percent tithe? But the Bank Manager, and simple common sense, warned us to pull back before we lost the house and everything.
And as for the crazy "faith ventures" that I embarked on, and persuaded Jon to embark on - I shudder now to think of them and the lunacy of believing that God would lead me into such plain foolishness.
Praying for a Family
One of the things closest to our hearts at that time was that we wanted a child. We had prayed and believed for years, and had "personal prophecies" about it - but still nothing. We nearly gave in and went to the Doctor, but at the last minute I felt it was a slap in God's face, and we should trust Him, for would He not give us the desires of our heart?
Then one day a magazine arrived from another Faith ministry (I forget which) and it was offering sponsorships of orphan children overseas. (I now know, through investigative reporting by others , that many such schemes are a scam, and just a money-making machine for the ministries. However, at the time I believed every word I read.)
It came to me (from the Lord as I believed) that if we were to give a large seed into this ministry for the sake of supporting an orphan, God would answer our prayer for a baby. I expect you are ahead of me by now, and can anticipate - as I could not at the time - what grief lay ahead when we put this bold plan into action.
The cheque was written - a huge amount - and with much prayer and faith confession it was put into the post. But, as the days passed my faith wore thin, and I could no longer even kid myself that it was God who had caused us to do such a thing. I did not conceive, and I can remember going out with a couple of friends and their family, and sitting on the swings of the playground just swinging back and forth in a daze of grief, disappointment and anger. Why had God not answered my prayer of faith? How had I failed?
A couple of times, it came to mind that perhaps it wasn't the Lord's will for us to have a family, but then my Word-of-Faith training clicked in, and I resolutely rejected this doubt from the devil. I repeated what I'd learned, that if His words abide in us, we can ask WHATSOEVER we will, and God WILL give it to us, because our desires are conformed to His. Failure is not an option.
The idea that God could withhold something that I desperately wanted was a heresy! But I had forgotten that God is the Almighty, the Omniscient Lord, and he knows everything - He knows the end from the beginning. In His greater wisdom and His greater knowledge of my life, He knew that when my calling to be a minister came, it would have been impossible for me to obey fully with a young family to care for. Which was the higher calling - to be a mother, or to be a minister of God in the endtimes? God knew, but I did not.
In my small perception, God was the great Provider who was forced by His own Word to give us everything we asked for, so long as we couched it in biblical promises.
Faith doctrines in effect demanded that God conform to our own perception of what was good for us, and it removed from God the ability to make independent decisions in our lives, and to work all things together for good in the long run.
In the Faith movement, we had been taught that God could do nothing without our believing prayer. Kenneth Hagin even described an incident when he met God in a vision, and a demon came between them. Hagin expected the Lord to rebuke it, but he did not. Eventually, he told Hagin that He (God) could not rebuke it, because He had given that authority and task to man - if Ken Hagin did not rebuke the devil, then God could not. So the teaching was that God could not move nor answer prayer except we released Him by our faith. A God who acted independently was somewhat confusing to us. (Note 1)
Several months passed before we realised one tremendous thing that God HAD done for us. (I think it was one of those days when God looked down on his foolish, innocent ones and had mercy. Oh how great is his love and pity!). The cheque was never cashed! Either it was lost in the mail, or the ministry didn't cash it for some reason. Whatever, the money was never taken from our overdrawn bank account. Praise God.
Thinking about this, I had a revelation about God's way of working. HE had taken the initiative, to do something I had neither prayed for, sought for nor known about. There were no positive confessions of the Word that caused Him to act on our behalf. He simply did so in a sovereign way. And, He'd done something that my own mind and my own flawed human understanding could not have anticipated. God was outside my understanding, acting of His own sovereign will. He did not NEED my confessions or spoken words to do what he'd done for me on that day.
Living By Faith
Another "faith venture" was that we decided we should live out our faith by working fulltime for the Lord. We decided to travel to the Bath headquarters of the Copeland ministry, and offer ourselves there for service. We had expected an office of some kind, but perhaps not a small untidy room up the back stairs of a shop, off the high street. However, that's not important. We were met at the door by a rather ruffled lady who was clearly not that pleased to see us. (But hadn't they said in the magazine that they'd be glad to see any of us, any day??)
The poor lady was as gracious as she could be in the circumstances, but we'd arrived at a bad time. There was obviously a deadline to be met, and she was busy. None of this occurred to us at the time. How selfish we can be. We thought this place would be a sanctuary of grace and faith, pulsating with the new life of the Copelands. We thought it would be a kind of Temple where we'd find validation and certainty. Instead, as we stood uncomfortably aware of our lack of welcome amongst the piled up boxes on the floor, we sensed it was all too ordinary!
Furthermore, our suggestions that we come and work for the Bath team were met, not with ecstasies of joy, and praises to God that we were about to sacrifice our lives and careers for the noble cause of truth - no, but with a ho-hum "well, we'll see; there's not much need for anyone at present" and more of the same, while the lady tried to back us out of the door.
Something else was wrong, too. In the course of conversation we'd mentioned the Shepherding Movement and our objections to it, assuming the Copeland worker would agree wholeheartedly. Strangely, she did not. She was evasive, would not condemn shepherding doctrines, and then said that there had been a change of heart and the Copeland ministry would now be working more closely with the Shepherding leadership, and we should be praying for unity between them. This was devastating! Formerly they agreed shepherding was in error, but now they'd changed their minds, and were going to work alongside eachother!
We travelled home again silent, and thinking about the rebuff we had just had. Our hopes for full-time ministry, living by faith as the Copelands did, had been dashed. Why did God reject us? Didn't He want us? We had failed again.
It was incidents like this that began to shake me loose from the stranglehold of absolute faith in the Faith Teachings. Others things were also happening. Despite the fact I would never listen to "negative" input - and Copeland even recommended that we do not read the daily newspaper, since that was full of negative things - God was hammering away at my beliefs, speaking His revelations into my spirit as I prayed and meditated on the Word.
Thoughts About Healing
One stumblingblock to faith, and something we could not understand, was the number of friends who genuinely prayed for healing and did not receive it, and Jon and I also experienced these medical setbacks. There was a cute little boy, the young son of a Christian family known to us, who was diagnosed with leukaemia. We all prayed, and we rebuked the enemy, we took authority, we quoted all the scriptures and claimed a complete restoration for this little boy - yet he died. How could this happen?
My eyesight was very poor, and I couldn't understand how God would not heal my eyesight, despite hours and hours of positive confessions. I truly was "in faith" for healing, but it never happened. I would walk around "by faith" without my glasses, stumbling into things and unable to see beyond the end of my nose. My friends even threatened to remove my glasses and stamp on them, as this would be a positive action reinforcing my faith. But all of this made not the slightest difference to my eyes. Where was I failing? According to the Faith doctrines, there is no mountain too huge to remove by our faith, and whatsoever we say will be given unto us, as long as it lines up with the Bible. Healing was a given; no disease or bodily lack had the right to afflict a believer, so we could confidently expect God to remove our infirmities. But as for me, despite my faith, God seemed to have let me down. Why?
Then there was the problem of illness in the scriptures, such as Paul's thorn, the "many illnesses" of Timothy, (1 Tim 5:23) and the sickness of Trophimus (2 Tim 4:20). I comforted myself by reading all kinds of explanations for the instances of illness in believers, but somehow they never rang true. It seemed like the Faith teachers were twisting the scriptures to fit their own belief in the absolute absence of illness for a believer. Yes, I did believe we should pray in faith for healing, and I did believe God had made a provision for healing in his Word - yet was it as all-encompassing as the Faith teachers said? Were there not instances in scripture and in the life of Christians where God allowed illness, deformity or weakness in a believer's life for a higher purpose? There did seem to be. I just could not square these two ideas. (Another entry for the "unexplained mysteries" section of my mind!)
THE SECOND CONFERENCE
Well, the time came round again for the Conference, this time in Brighton. It was held around the Halloween weekend, and began on October 28th 1985, with a full moon and an eclipse!
Now I should preface this by saying that Jon and I could not afford to go away from home and stay in a hotel for the week. Despite this, we felt it would be a faith-venture if we believed for the money, and we had had somewhat of a miracle in finding a free room in a guest house within walking distance of the Conference Centre. So we felt it was God's will for us to go.
The weather was cold and wet. We arrived at the guest house to find it was rather squalid, and that our room was an attic at the very top of the building. It was just about large enough for the two creaky single beds and a grubby wash basin. The carpets were torn and looked as if they had not been cleaned for years. Dust lay everywhere. Nonetheless, we counted ourselves blessed to have this room, since we were prepared to make any sacrifice in order to be with God's people and to seek God's power and blessing.
The first meeting began at 7pm, in a large auditorium. The numbers of people had grown and there were now several hundreds attending. However, the meeting was oddly powerless and disappointing. The singing was uninspired. When Ken Copeland came onto stage, he seemed confused and disjointed. His preaching lacked conviction. I thought somebody like Copeland flowed in the anointing all the time, and I was not prepared to believe that he'd missed it. But he had.
Also, Copeland was determined to push a song that somebody had written. Copeland believed God wanted to use the song greatly to change the world. It was a nice enough song, about love. BUT, he made us learn it word by word, sing it, repeat it over and over - and really, it wasn't any big deal, just a song. I could not agree there was anything special about it. But he was forcing everybody to sing this song. I was irritated. I felt I should pray that the spirit of heaviness lifted and that the Holy Spirit would lead Copeland to preach what HE wanted.
The next evening, Copeland rebuked satan in the hall, and things went a little smoother, but the level of teaching was poor and repetitive. I realised with some horror that Copeland was using talks that he'd put out on tape and preached in many different places. I had heard it all before, from tapes and the "Voice of Victory" magazine. He was just repeating himself, word for word. I felt cheated.
A Terrible Setback
The next evening, something else happened that shook me. Before Copeland came on stage, a "warm-up-man" appeared to conduct a little singing and a talk. (Also to pump us for money each evening!). As it happened this man (whose name I cannot now remember, I'm afraid, for he was surely a true man of God) was led to reach out to "the broken-hearted" and to those who felt let-down, rejected, misunderstood and were having a hard time in their church fellowships, etc.
A lot of people in the UK felt that way, including me. I'm not normally emotional in public, but I was in tears as the Holy Spirit touched the needs in my life. The man called us to the front where we believed we would receive a healing touch from God - something we desperately needed. Many were in tears. It was a precious moment.
BUT - just as the man was about to pray for us, Copeland bounced onto stage. (Later, I thought about it, and realised he was jealous, and felt this man was taking on too much for himself).
Copeland began to tell us what we needed was to praise God, jump for joy and thank God for releasing us. The mood was instantly broken and the sense of the Lord's healing presence totally fled. Copeland made us jump up and down on the spot and shout praises, and you could tell we didn't really want to. We needed to hear from God about our situation, and we needed to have his sweet Spirit minister to our broken hearts. But that was all over now. The moment was lost. We were told to go back rejoicing to our seats, and we obediently did so.
Praying Against the Devil
On October 31st, we were asked to come to the hall half an hour early to pray against the demonic influences oppressing the meetings. It had been discovered that a group of satanists was meeting locally and on Halloween night they intended having a big powerful meeting. Halloween is not celebrated as a public holiday in the UK as it is in America and the commercial elements are not there. Instead, it's a time for the pagans, witches, new-agers and anyone else who believes in these things to practise their arts. Halloween can be a time of trouble and oppression for Christians.
Again, the prayer seemed artificially induced. We were told to pray in tongues together, out loud. We did so, but unless the Lord is guiding prayer, and unless prayer is in His Spirit, it is merely noise. We made a lot of noise, but we weren't really praying. How could Copeland not know this, I wondered?
I awoke to Friday morning - the last day of the Conference, and still my overall impression was that Copeland had not been flowing in the Spirit, and the meetings had been dull and powerless. Where was the spiritual inspiration, the praise to God, the genuine move of the Spirit that I longed for? I woke up heavy and sad, with a great prayer burden. If things did not go better tonight, then all was lost.
Thankfully, just before the meeting Jon decided to go for a walk, so I could pour out my heart to God in prayer as I wanted, in our little attic room. It was like the old times, and I had a great release in prayer. I had been praying for the meeting and for the Copelands, but it seemed that God was speaking to ME personally. I was led to the scriptures, and to Isaiah 61. This said:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified... But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves. For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them. Isa 61:1-7 (KJV)
Although this was principally about the coming restoration of Israel, it also spoke to me about my personal restoration - especially that He would bind up the broken-hearted, and that "for your shame you shall have double". I thought it spoke about the meeting and that at last we would see a breakthrough into truly spiritual praise and teaching. (But it was speaking of a time beyond that, a day I could know nothing about, a day hidden in God's heart.)
Copeland Teaches JDS
On Friday evening, Copeland decided to teach us "a new revelation" from the Word. It was indeed new to me. While delighted to be led into this exciting new pathway, it troubled me that I had been a Christian for 20 years, and had a deep understanding of the Word, but had never been led by the Holy Spirit to see what Copeland saw - that Jesus had to die spiritually! Yes, Copeland decided to preach the JDS teaching.
This teaching has become one of the most notorious of all the faith teachings (But it was new to me then.) It teaches that the physical death and the outpoured blood of Jesus on the Cross were not sufficient to atone for man's sin, but that Jesus had to take the very nature of the devil, become a fallen man, and be tortured in hell for three days and nights before the Father released him as the first born-again man.
(More about this teaching can be found in Moreno Dal Bello's study. Also, keep an eye on the Word-of-Faith section of Articles, as I intend to post more articles as time permits. Also see Copeland's letter, below.)
I followed Copeland's reasoning, and made notes in my Bible. In part, it made sense, but then Copeland's handling of the scriptures kept worrying me. He based a crucial doctrine on this passage:
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? Heb 1:5 (KJV)
Copeland's point was this, as I recall. That Jesus was the Son of Man, in being born of a Virgin, but he was begotten of God when the Father raised him from hell. Therefore, Jesus was born-again. He was born twice, once as the Son of Man and AGAIN as the Son of God, when the Father rescued Jesus from hell.
Copeland pointed out those words "and again." and said, this meant "again I will be unto him a father."
Now, I knew something about the construction of the English language. That phrase "and again." had absolutely NOTHING to do with Jesus being born twice! It's simply a device used in the King James to link a number of similar quotes. You can easily check this out by cross-referencing passages like Romans 15:10-12.
Things like that puzzled me. I later realised that I was doing what most people in the same situation do - they lie to themselves! Whenever something came up that knocked Copeland's shiny image in my eyes, I justified him to myself. I covered up his false prophecies, and scriptural errors. I defended his lack of spiritual discernment, all because I wanted to believe in him. I didn't really hear what the Copelands said, I heard my own mentally adjusted, scripturally correct, version of what they said.
Arrogance and Pride
Something that I DID hear, and it offended me, was this. Jerry Savelle was at that time Copeland's protégé. He travelled with him, and I believe he was there in 1985 (or I may have heard this at a different meeting.) Savelle was boasting about himself and his ministry, and how he'd travelled the world, to Third World countries, too. He told us how it was a real sacrifice on his part to do these things. It's isn't easy to minister in these foreign countries, he said. "I mean, I was wearing a thousand-dollar silk suit, and I send it down to be cleaned and they made a real mess of it. They just don't know how to clean good clothes in those countries."
I couldn't believe my ears! But this was just something else I overlooked and forgave.
Each evening, there was a long appeal for donations, and we gave something each time. On the final evening, we felt we should make a grand gesture and sow a seed in faith. We had just had a pep talk about the need to sow in faith, and so forth, so we decided to give the ministry a big sum of money. (It was £50, but in those days that was a huge sum.) As usual, we didn't have the money in the bank, but this was "by faith" remember? So Jon wrote out a cheque and dropped it into the basket. To us this was a very hard and sacrificial thing to do. But we did it out of love and obedience, and in a desire to support the Copeland Ministry.
Then it was all over, and the Copelands vacated the stage.
I will preface my remarks now by explaining our understanding of ministry at that time. Jon and I, and our friends, and many other people in the UK had experienced the charismatic renewal through Pentecostal-style ministry which was a hands-on, lay ministry type of thing. We had attended the Chard conferences in the 1970's, some of which took over the Butlin's holiday camp where we lived in basic chalets and ate together at long communal tables and benches. There was not much sense of "them and us" with the ministry team, because the leaders were wandering about amongst us, and if you met Harry Greenwood or Ian Andrews in the café you just had a chat with him, like a normal person.
After the evening meetings, in those days, the ministry team would stay at the front and people would go up and talk to them. There would be prayers for healing or counselling, or whatever was needful. They were servants of God, and they made themselves available to help and to pray for the people.
By contrast, at the end of every Copeland meeting, the "important" people like Ken and Gloria Copeland, jerry Savelle or whoever else was in the leadership team, would dive through the back curtains and be gone. They did not mingle with the common folks, much less stop for a chat. They were above such things.
Jon and I made our way to the back exit. Our guest house was towards the back of the building, so we always went out that way. There was a large swing-door for the people, and a smaller door labelled "VIP EXIT", presumably so the stars could get away from their adoring fans all the more quickly.
Just as Jon and I went to exit the main door, this VIP exit door opened, and out came Ken and Gloria, plus a couple of other leaders. My heart jumped - maybe we would get to speak to them and share our hopes and desires for spiritual renewal, or maybe we could share some thoughts on the teaching - but as they glanced around they looked straight through us as if we didn't exist, in their rush to get away. Outside stood a long black limousine, with its engine revving. A chauffeur was in the front seat, ready to go. We knew from information given by friends that the Copelands and Team had booked into the most expensive hotel in Brighton - a palace as it seemed to us.
You have to realise that in Britain we don't do things that way. To drive in a limousine is reserved for royalty, or TV stars, or perhaps the Mayor - not for Christian Ministers! Who did they think they were?
The car pulled away, spraying us with rainwater as it did so. It was taking them to the luxury of a bright, warm, expensive apartment. They were so far above our sphere of existence, they did not even notice us, standing there in the rain.
It was a dark cold night. We pulled up our collars against the driving rain and began to walk towards our little garret. We had no car. I said to Jon "We just gave those people £50"
That statement summed it all up. The scales dropped from our eyes. We saw the Copelands as they really were, and we no longer worshipped them. Later, somebody remarked to me that the Copelands preach faith for prosperity, but their own wealth has come from your and my donations!! They don't live by faith at all, they live off us poor people!
Was it God, or us?
Although we had seen the light as regards the Copelands, we still believed in faith teachings, and practised them daily. It was about this time that we bought Hagin's Bible Study series(*) in order to follow a daily bible course, to increase our faith. We faithfully followed the book, doing one portion per day. As we did so, both of us became troubled. As we drank in, day by day, the teachings on prayer and faith, it seemed that the focus was all upon what WE had to do, and what WE could achieve, rather than upon Jesus. I remember saying to Jon - reading this book, it's like we don't need Jesus at all! THAT troubled me.
Just one short passage from the book gives a flavour:
Four steps to be taken in order to see our prayers answered:
- Decide what you want from God
- Search the Bible for scriptures that promise the answer you need
- Ask God for the things you want
- Believe that you receive - have a stubborn faith that refuses to look at circumstances. Never doubt for one minute that you have the answer.
Constant and reliable answers to prayer were promised, not failure to receive. That had not been my experience. But since God never failed, and since God had promised " he shall have whatsoever he SAITH", the failure, according to Hagin, was that we did not speak positively enough. Indeed, speaking a negative confession - saying "I have a cold" - was inviting the devil to bring misfortune, because "we have whatsoever we say".
At this time, too, we were introducing our next-door neighbour to the Faith doctrine. He was a simple soul and took most things literally. I remember that he came in one day and told to us in a very distraught manner that he'd made a negative confession. He said he had been praying for a newer car (his was falling to bits) but that he'd blown his chances now, sadly - he'd said out loud to his wife that he didn't believe they could afford a new car. So he had lost his chance of God's blessing by speaking a negative confession. He was very downcast about this. He couldn't put the words back into his mouth and now he'd lost his car!
That seemed preposterous, even to me - but it's what WE had shown him. I felt responsible for creating a blockage in this young man's life. If God wanted to bless him with a new car, then He would. This young man had been led into fear, not faith. His God was a fickle being who was swayed by a foolish utterance, and one unguarded moment had lost him God's blessing - or so he believed.
Even though this was a parody of the faith message, it occurred to me that the whole system was open to misinterpretation and was causing stumbling blocks amongst the immature. Was this the faith of the Bible, or a doctrinal system of rules and rituals that people had to LEARN before they could be successful? And what of the weak, and ignorant? They could never LEARN how to make the system work, so they could never reach the heights of victory and blessing. Is this what God intended for his people?
Jon and I pressed on with the Study Books, but increasingly we felt ill at ease with them. "Where does God come into all this?" we asked. It's all about OUR faith, and OUR use of the Word. Chapter headings such as "How to Write Your Own Ticket With God" and "You Can have What You Say" jarred my spirit - not because I was lacking in faith or bound by religious dogma, but because I knew and loved God through Jesus Christ - and this wasn't the way I saw God or Jesus, as beings to be manipulated into providing everything we wanted. I had more respect for the Almighty than that. And besides, my own experience in the Christian life had taught me that you DON'T get "all you say", even if you say it continually, with faith. There are some things that God loves you enough NOT to give!
The emphasis on prosperity for all believers jarred also. Don't get me wrong. I had nothing against the principle that God blesses and provides for his people, and I did see prosperity as a blessing from God. However, this was again taken to extremes. Hagin wrote "God wants his children to eat the best, to wear the best clothing, to drive the best cars, and he wants them to have the best of everything." In an ideal world, maybe. But I also subscribed to a few missionary support groups and charities, and I knew from the literature that arrived that beloved, God-fearing believers in other parts of the country were not only impoverished, but sometimes starving, unclothed and dying. Others were in prison for their faith. Did this mean they were unable to exercise faith to receive "the best of everything" or was God being partisan in only blessing people in affluent Western countries?
GOD SPOKE --- AND SUDDENLY I KNEW
During those days, I pondered all these things. You know, you always remember where you were when God spoke to your heart. I remember precisely and I can still picture the scene. I was standing in front of the kitchen sink, doing the washing up and gazing into the garden through the window. I was thinking about the Faith issues.
Suddenly, everything became clear and it was as if God spoke into my heart. We "had a conversation" about the subject, and he showed me the problems with the faith teachings. It was all to do with God's will, and submission to His will. Now, a Faith believer is taught that saying "if it be thy will" is worse than swearing! We don't pray with one eye on God's will, we claim the promises of scripture as a RIGHT, for they are ours already in Jesus Christ.
Hagin wrote: "if our prayer is according to God's Word, it is according to His will". (page 86, prevailing prayer to peace). No problem. So then, God's part is over and done with. Hagin even says "there is nothing else God can or will do" - in sending Jesus he restored authority and dominion, and removed the curse, so that now it's entirely up to US how we handle the Word, believe and claim the promises.
So the assumption is that God has no say in answering prayer, except to endorse our positive confessions, which release the promises already embedded in the Word. It is the speaking that activates them. The magic is in the speaking, and the words release the power of faith that brings the blessing to us in reality.
As before, I said "where is God in all this?" Anybody could learn this technique, even a pagan. But God spoke with me that morning and showed me Himself - his love, his care for us, and his greatness and knowledge. He showed me that "having faith" was trusting in HIM, not in our confessions, or in our ability to keep up a doubt-free frame of mind. Faith was IN HIM, in His goodness and power, not in ourselves in sweating out a system of faith-words, nor in the written scriptures alone, but in the God of the Word.
If we demand, as a right, everything in the Bible, and believe that God cannot do anything but obey our demands for blessing, then it puts our destiny in our own hands. For we decide what is good for us, and what we should have. We make the decisions about career, marriage, family, finances, churches, friends - everything. It is as if WE have become the gods, and the Lord Almighty is the servant. The roles are reversed, and God has no say in our lives, beyond activating the promises of scripture.
I suddenly saw how demeaning this is to God. When I came to Him years before, and submitted myself to Him as Lord, it was acknowledging that He had the right to choose my way of life, and everything else. My destiny was in HIS hands, not mine. Indeed, I couldn't trust myself to make those decisions on my own behalf - I did not know what was best for me. He did.
Now could I trust HIM to lead me, inspire me, prompt me in prayer, and bless me according to His own plans and decisions? If bad things appeared to come, could I see them as part of the greater and higher purposes of God? Or was I going to demand "the best" all the while, and see any loss or defeat as a failure of faith?
Prayer had become a mantra, almost! It was a constant round of "taking authority" and "speaking faith" and "demanding" this that and the other, and "rebuking doubt" - none of which was an interaction with God. It was a formula, not prayer. It was not a loving relationship any more - I was losing sight of my relationship with Jesus in prayer because prayer had become a system of spiritual exercises for getting what I wanted in life.
I no longer came to God to fellowship with Him and to know what was His word into my life. He was squeezed out, and replaced by faith-words and demands that He live up to his scriptural promises. I had been taught to "find a word" then as much as hold it over God's head until he coughed up. That had brought a veil between us. Now I had rediscovered the loving, gentle Father I had always known, and I felt ashamed for leaving him behind.
Moving Into The Truth
It was not long after that (indeed it was only six months later, in April 1986) that God answered my desire to reach out to the suffering and confused, and he called me to become a Watchman. Banner Ministries was born in a quiet way around that time, and has grown by the grace of God to become a recognised ministry world-wide exposing the sham and falsity of unbiblical doctrines - like the Word of Faith teachings. God knew what He was going to do with my life, and he needed my willingness and submission to HIS WILL, but I had nearly been led astray by the Faith message.
I listened again, with new ears, to the many tapes I had collected. Suddenly I HEARD what they said, and I SAW it was in error. I looked at the scriptures and time and again I found the statements of the Faith teachers distorted the scriptural meaning, and suggested things that God never intended.
PROSPERITY - WHAT IS IT?
An example of this was used at the Brighton Conference, and even at the time it struck me as a distortion - but at that time I overlooked it, and "rewrote" the teaching to make it scriptural. Now, I wasn't prepared to do so. The passage in the third letter of John (3 Jn 1:2) "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth", was always used to demonstrate that God desires his people to "prosper" - that is, to be rich. Prosperity was a big subject in the Faith teachings, and the John passage seemed central to their exposition of that doctrine.
Yet this is a distortion of the scripture, because the word "prosper" does not mean "wealth" as evidenced by the latter part of that scripture "even as thy soul prospereth". Souls do not receive material wealth, although they can become rich in faith. The word Prosper in scripture means to be "helped along the way", and it signifies a daily walk that is successful in all areas. It does not simply mean that a believer "has prosperity" in terms of being financially well-off!
Looking around, I realised that many, many devoted believers were serving God and helping others without necessarily being prosperous. Indeed, I knew few if any who were rich. Most believers were struggling financially - like the believers in the Word of God. How could I square the teaching on prosperity with the experience of the Apostles who had nothing? And Jesus who had nowhere to lay His head? How could I ignore all the warnings in scripture about riches, and the attitude of wariness towards material possessions which could prove to be a snare? It just didn't add up!
Little by little, the things I had so avidly held to were exposed as deceptions. Eventually I compiled four audio tapes of quotes from the Copeland ministries illustrating where they were in error, and these became almost the first set of tapes I offered on my new Banner Ministries tape list. [The Wells Without Water set of tapes, now available as a written transcript on this website. NOTE: THE AUDIO TAPES OF THIS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE.]
I also photocopied sections from the Voice of Victory magazine and other sources, and circulated a research pack of these selections, proving conclusively that Copeland did teach these things.
As proof of his teaching on JDS, I have scanned a letter written and signed by Kenneth Copeland, issued by his office on March 12th 1979, in which he seeks to justify his teachings that Jesus died spiritually. I have scanned the part that says "when his blood poured out, it did not atone."
You can see this scan of the actual letter here. The reproduction is poor, because the letter had been reduced in size, and photocopied in order to be circulated. Also, somebody has both highlighted and underlined the words. Nonetheless it IS authentic.
Genuine Truths of the Faith Movement
It is important for me to say that I did not ditch every single thing I had learned in the Faith Movement. Nobody ever serves up poison straight - they hide it in a large juicy steak. There's a lot of steak in the Faith teachings, but also there's poison, enough to kill you.
There are truths I don't want to lose, and I thank the Lord he's led me to see the Bible from a positive, believing attitude. Praise and the confession of scripture is important, and can confound the devil's attacks. Doubt should be banished from our thinking, and we ought to believe that God desires our health and wellbeing. We do have victory in Jesus Christ over all the works of the devil, and our daily life should reflect this attitude of victory.
Memorising scripture is very up-building, and at times of need, to be able to recall and speak out loud the promises of God is extremely beneficial. Faith is necessary for answered prayer (but so is the will of God - the two go hand in hand.) Faith does move us from an attitude of submission to the devil's attacks to the solid ground of belief in the goodness and power of God. All these things are good and helpful. I am not denying any of these things.
However, it cannot be denied that the Faith teachings go way beyond these biblical basics (all of which we could learn from the Bible itself without having to subscribe to a Faith Ministry.)
When we look at the aberrations taught by people like Copeland, Hinn, John Avanzini, Hagin, Jerry Savelle and others, and their acceptance of the Toronto Movement, we can see they are not just teaching pure faith in the Bible. They are promoting a system of belief and doctrine that is cult-like and deceptive, and one that leads believers into bondage rather than freedom.
Teachings like Jesus-Died-Spiritually, prosperity teaching, faith in your faith, ye are gods, faith is a force, and the coming glory that will transform us into an army that will take the nations by storm - all this is way beyond biblical teaching and must be rejected.
I learned as I studied the origins of the Movement, about a teaching called "New Thought" that led to Christian Science, and then fed into the Faith Movement through E.W. Kenyon. I looked up New Thought in the library and was astounded to see how similar it was to modern-day Faith teachings! I checked out the Kenyon books and confirmed for myself what others had pointed out - that Kenneth Hagin copied word-for-word up to 75 percent of Kenyon's book and published it under his own name! In other words, he ripped off Kenyon's book and claimed to have written it himself!
But all these things have been covered in other articles and books, some of which I have placed on this website for you to check out for yourselves. So I will not cover that ground here, but simply end my testimony with an admonition: do not eat all that you are served, nor believe all you are told!
There are those who will ensnare your soul with lies, so you need to open your eyes to the biblical truths and seek God for freedom from the Faith teachings. You will not lose the genuine teaching of scripture, but you WILL be set free from the distortions of the Faith Movement.
More Word of Faith articles listed HERE
(*) "Prevailing Prayer To Peace", 26 Prayer lessons, and "New Thresholds of Faith" 26 Faith lessons, both by Kenneth Hagin.
Note 1 - Introduction to Hagin's study on prayer - "God made the world --- then he gave man dominion over all the works of his hands.then satan became god of this world.God didn't just move in to stop Satan --- through Jesus, God redeemed Mankind --- now authority has been restored to us through Jesus Christ and when we ask God, THEN he can move. That is why it seems he can do nothing unless somebody asks him to do 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.