Joseph Herrin (06-07-2014)
Recent correspondence with two different brothers in Christ has led me to a consideration of how the church was rendered susceptible to the great falling away from truth occurring in this hour. Beginning with the Azusa Street Revival that occurred a century ago, there has been a renewed interest in spiritual gifts in the church. Spiritual gifts are a wonderful thing. They were given by God to the saints for the mutual edification of the body of Christ. As so often happens, however, the church which had wrongly despised spiritual gifts for centuries climbed out of the ditch on one side of the road only to fall headlong into the ditch on the other side.
If you have been a Christian for very long, you have likely heard someone ask, “Have you received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues?” Such a question was relatively unheard of prior to the Azusa Street Revival. In the past century, with the rise of the Pentecostal Movement and the emergence of Charismatic churches, people began to speak openly of spiritual gifts. Consequently, the role of the Holy Spirit in the churches gained a new ascendancy. In an earlier post in this series I remarked upon Frank Bartleman’s insightful comments upon visiting the Azusa Street Revival. He discerned that an imbalance existed in this revival movement.
The temptation seems to be toward empty manifestations. This does not require any particular cross, or death to the self-life. Hence it is always popular… Any mission that exalts even the Holy Ghost above the Lord Jesus Christ is bound for the rocks of error and fanaticism.
What essentially occurred is that men and women began to measure their spirituality, their standing and approval before God, by the spiritual gifts they possessed. Speaking in tongues; prophesying; healing the sick; these things became badges of honor worn proudly by Pentecostal and Charismatic believers. If you manifested these gifts you were considered to be spiritual, and highly favored of God. Spiritual manifestations became the yardstick by which Christian men and women measured one another.
Religious men demonstrating pride about their actions is nothing new. Yahshua rebuked the Jewish religious leaders of His day for their spiritual pride.
“But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries, and lengthen the tassels of their garments. And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called by men, Rabbi.”
It is common to find men (and women) among the leadership, as well as the laity, of the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches who manifest spiritual gifts while carrying on grossly debauched lives. One brother whose father was a Pentecostal minister has shared horror stories regarding what he has observed and personally experienced within one of the major Pentecostal denominations. The transgressions reported by this brother include his own father seducing the son’s wife, and spiritually dominating her so that he could continue to engage in sexual relations with his daughter-in-law. Think this is an exception? Tragically, it is not. The Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are rife with scandals, and what has come to light is only the tip of the iceberg.
I mentioned previously that Roberts Liardon wrote the book God’s Generals. He has actually written a significant number of books on this theme, as well as producing a 12 video set on the lives of 12 of these Pentecostal/Charismatic/Healing leaders. A brother in Christ wrote to me after reading the post in which I made reference to Roberts Liardon. He informed me that Liardon was exposed as a homosexual, and publicly confessed to a “short term homosexual relationship” with a young man who served as a youth minister at his church. Upon looking further into this matter I found that Roberts Liardon was involved in this homosexual relationship at the very time he was writing his books relating to the leaders of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Healing movements.
I believe there may be a connection to Roberts Liardon’s intense focus on these Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders and his own behavior. Liardon has testified that he provided a “warts and all” account of these leaders. He did not shrink back from disclosing many of their serious moral failings. At the same time, he stridently argued that God can, and will, use any instrument of His choosing to display His power and to speak forth His truth, irregardless of the individual’s shortcomings. Liardon’s approach essentially indemnifies these “gifted” spiritual leaders from being disqualified by any moral failing. Such a view is erroneous. At the same time it explains the mindset of Roberts Liardon. We are enabled to understand how this man was able to continue to engage in Christian ministry while living a lifestyle that Yahweh has declared to be an abomination. If gifts, rather than character, are the measure of a man’s spirituality, then a person can persuade both themselves and others into believing they are walking in God’s favor while living grossly immoral lives.
This was certainly the mindset adopted by Jim Bakker. He was recognized as being a man of great Charisma. He boasted of walking in the blessings of God, and being a partaker of the Holy Spirit. Yet, Jim Bakker’s veneration of the Holy Spirit did not lead to personal holiness. Jim Bakker was focused far more on the gifts of the Spirit, than the fruit of the Spirit.
Jim Bakker’s trial brought to light his hedonistic lifestyle which included six luxury homes, as well as an air-conditioned dog house. Bakker was charged with diverting $3.7 million of the donations given to the PTL ministry for his personal use. It was also disclosed that he paid Jessica Hahn $250,000 in an attempt to keep the sexual affair he had with her hidden. Tammy Bakker also appeared before millions as a spiritual leader, yet her focus on the gifts of God did not produce spiritual fruit in her life either. Tammy divorced Jim after he was sent to prison and then committed adultery by marrying Roe Messner, a contractor that had built many of the facilities at PTL. Tammy carried on a “non-judgmental ministry” to homosexuals, even making appearances at Gay Pride events nationwide.
Tammy Faye Messner on RuPaul (Transexual) Show
Tammy Faye at the Queer OUTFEST
It has become the norm, rather than the exception, to find gross moral failures among those who elevate the gifts of the Holy Spirit above obedience to the commandments of Christ. Christ spoke through the mouths of His apostles that the people of God should walk in holiness even as God in heaven is holy.
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.
My own home state of Georgia has known its share of moral failures by Pentecostal and Charismatic church leaders. One of the wealthiest was Earl Paulk, founder of The Cathedral at Chapel Hill near Atlanta. One of the first scandals occurred when Earl Paul and his brother Don had allegations brought against them of sexual infidelity by four women in their church. Later, in 2001, another female church member filed a lawsuit claiming Paulk sexually molested her as a child and into her teen years. This was followed by more allegations in August 2005 when church soloist Mona Brewer and her husband Bobby, major financial supporters of the church, filed a lawsuit against Earl Paulk charging him with abusing his spiritual position by manipulating her into being his mistress over a period of 14 years. Mona Brewer says that the members were conditioned to give unconditional obedience to the pastor, who called himself “Archbishop Paulk,” and that he taught her that those who are spiritually exalted can have sexual relationships and it isn’t adultery. He called it “kingdom relationships.” Mrs. Brewer stated that Paulk even “shared” her sexually with family members (including Paulk’s brother Don who was serving as senior pastor at the church) and visiting Charismatic preachers.
Earl and Don Paulk After Beating by Mona’s Husband
After 14 years of being Earl Paulk’s personal sex toy, Mona confessed to her husband what had been going on. Bobby Brewer arranged a meeting with Earl and his brother Don and gave them both a thrashing, leaving Earl Paulk with two black eyes, and Don with a busted lip and one black eye. Further claims of sexual abuse by other members subsequently came to light, including the account of Cindy Hall, another married church member whom Paulk used for sexual favors for a period of ten years. An expose on CNN stated, “Cindy Hall is also a married former member of the Chapel Hill Harvester Church, who claims to have also been manipulated by Paulk for ten years into performing sometimes twice daily sexual acts with him and occasionally other men and women.” Hall recalled how Paulk would even pray over her during the act and make it look like something holy she was doing for God.
Again, these are not aberrations from the norm. Like the widespread sexual abuse of minor boys by Roman Catholic priests, this is a systemic problem. It stems from a fundamental error that the belief systems of these churches and ministers are based upon. This error is the belief that spirituality is measured by gifts rather than character.
The Los Angeles Times reported over a three day period beginning September 12, 2004 that Paul Crouch, head of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) had paid $425,000 in 1998 to Enoch Lonnie Ford, an employee at TBN, to keep him from going public with his allegation that they had a homosexual encounter. The payment was made in an out-of-court settlement, and included a gag order to prevent Ford from making public a written testimony of his affair with Paul Crouch.
One of the biggest names, and most financially successful of the Charismatic preachers was Jimmy Swaggart, cousin of Rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis. (Lewis was himself an exceedingly evil man and is believed to have murdered one young wife who objected to his lifestyle.) By the mid-1980s Swaggart’s broadcast appeared on more than 250 television stations across the U.S. and pulled in about $150 million dollars a year. Swaggart jealousy guarded his corner of the Charismatic market. When Marvin Gorman, another Assemblies of God minister with a television broadcast was gaining in popularity, Swaggart hired a private investigator to dig up whatever he could on his rival. Evidence revealed that Gorman was having multiple affairs, though he eventually confessed to only one. He was defrocked by the Assemblies of God. Jimmy Swaggart had removed a rival to his popularity, but payback was soon to come.
Gorman, being a great example of Charismatic/Pentecostal morality, refused to take his lumps and move on. He hired his own private investigator, and placed upon his son Robert the task of assisting the private detective in gathering dirt on Jimmy Swaggart. Dirt was not hard to find. Swaggart was caught visiting a prostitute at a local hotel. The prostitute, Debra Murphree stated in a Penthouse interview that Swaggart visited her often, and had asked if he could have sex with Murphree’s nine year old daughter.
Marvin Gorman confronted Swaggart at the hotel and proffered a deal. If Swaggart would initiate Gorman’s reinstatement with the AOG churches, Gorman promised not to expose Swaggart. Gorman waited a year, and when Swaggart did not comply, he contacted the AOG leadership and presented the evidence against Swaggart. Swaggart was the largest financial contributor to the AOG churches, contributing more money to their missions’ budget than all other AOG churches combined. The AOG presbytery were loathe to be too harsh on Swaggart, and asked him to take a 3 month break from public ministry. This was extended to 2 years when Swaggart manifested great arrogance to the AOG leadership and demonstrated no contrition. A few years later Swaggart was once again caught in the act, this time by a California patrolman who pulled Swaggart over for driving on the wrong side of the road and for propositioning a prostitute.
Jimmy Swaggart in 2002
Following are another half dozen accounts of Pentecostal/Charismatic transgressions that were collected on an Internet website.
By the 1980s Pentecostal evangelist PETER POPOFF had a ministry on 51 television channels and 40 radio stations and an annual income of seven million dollars. He also held healing crusades in many cities, during which he would exercise a “word of knowledge” by calling out the names, addresses, and illnesses of strangers who were in attendance. In 1986 the news broke that Popoff’s amazing “revelations” were actually broadcast to him by his wife after she had conversed with members of the audience. She transmitted her information by radio signal and Peter could hear her voice through a tiny receiver in his ear. A team of skeptics discovered the ruse and recorded the private broadcasts using a scanning receiver and recording equipment (Los Angeles Times, May 11, 1986). When questioned about the matter by John Dart, religion writer for the Los Angeles Times, Popoff replied that his wife only supplied him with about 50% of the information and the rest he got from the Lord! Popoff was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1987 but by 1990 he was back in business with a new book entitled Dreams, which he announced in a full-page ad in Charisma magazine…
In November 2006, TED HAGGARD resigned as senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and as head of the National Association of Evangelicals on revelation of exploits with a homosexual prostitute named Mike Jones. Though Haggard denied the accusation at first, he eventually admitted his ‘dark side.” A letter from Haggard was read to the New Life Church on November 5 in which the founding pastor admitted that he is “guilty of sexual immorality” and “a deceiver and a liar.” He said, “There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve been warring against it all of my adult life.” Haggard is a Charismatic, a New Evangelical, and a radical ecumenist. In October 2005 Haggard said, “New Life doesn’t try to ‘convert’ Catholics” and “the church would never discourage its members from becoming Catholic or attending Catholic Mass” (Berean Call, Jan. 2006). In January 2009, Brady Boyd, who succeeded Haggard as senior pastor at New Life Church, disclosed that Haggard also had a homosexual relationship with a member of the church that “went on for a long period of time” (“Disgraced Pastor Faces More Gay Sex Allegations,” AP, Jan. 24, 2009)…
In 2007 wrongful termination suits were filed against Oral Roberts University by former professors alleging that the founder’s son RICHARD ROBERTS and his wife LINDSAY misappropriated school money and other improprieties. According to the suit, they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund their lavish lifestyle, including a stable of horses for their daughters, a $29,400 trip to Orlando and the Bahamas aboard a university jet for a daughter and her friends, and a $39,000 shopping spree at one clothing store for Lindsay (“Healing ORU,” Christianity Today, September 2008). The suit also alleges that the Roberts’ home has been remodeled 11 times in the past 14 years, that Lindsay spent nights in the ORU guest house with an underage 16 year old male, and that she frequently had cell phone bills of more than $800 per month, with “hundreds of text messages sent between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. to underage males who had been provided phones at university expense” (“Oral Roberts University Faces the Blue Screen of Death,” http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2007/10/oral-roberts-university-faces-blue.html). The professors were fired for trying to expose “the leadership’s moral failings and financial improprieties…”
Also in August 2008 MICHAEL GUGLIELMUCCI of the Assemblies of God in Australia admitted that he had been lying about having an advanced stage of cancer. For the past two years Guglielmucci, a popular contemporary worship leader and former pastor, had claimed to have terminal cancer. He even recorded a song called “The Healer” that became a hit and was featured on Hillsong’s latest album. For two years he allegedly fooled even his wife and parents and closest friends into thinking that he had cancer. He sent e-mails to his wife from phony doctors, shaved his head, walked with a cane, and carried around an oxygen bottle. In one church performance that attracted one-third of a million hits on YouTube, he sang with an oxygen tube in his nose! He claimed that God gave him the song after he learned that he had “an aggressive form of cancer.” Guglielmucci now claims that he faked cancer to hide a longtime addiction to pornography. He is the former pastor of one of Australia’s largest youth churches called Planetshakers. More recently he was the worship leader at Edge Church International, an Assemblies of God congregation pastored by his father, Danny.
In July 2009, RIVA AND ZACHARY TIMS, founders of the charismatic megachurch New Destiny Christian Center in Orlando, Florida, were divorced. This occurred two years after Zachary admitted a year-long affair with stripper Judy Nguyen. In August 2011, the 42-year-old preacher was found dead in a New York hotel room under suspicious circumstances. The Wall Street Journal reported that police suspected drug overdose and that an envelope of white powder believed to be narcotics was found on Tims, but his mother is fighting in court to have the record sealed, claiming that his “cause of death would be an embarrassment to her, his children, her grandchildren and his congregation.”
In February 2010, “healing evangelist” BENNY HINN’S wife filed for divorce. On August 2, National Inquirer published a photo of Hinn and Pentecostal preacher Paula White (who was divorced the previous year) walking hand-in-hand leaving a Rome hotel. The accompanying story said that the two spent three nights in a five-star hotel which Hinn booked under a false name. Hinn admitted to being with White in Rome and having a “friendship” and an “inappropriate relationship” with her, but both parties claimed there was no affair.
Benny Hinn and Paula White – National Enquirer
In September 2010 megachurch “bishop” EDDIE LONG of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta was accused of seducing four young men into sexual relationships in exchange for cars, clothes, and trips. Long settled out of court by paying the men off. In December 2011, Long’s second wife filed for divorce.
This is just a sampling of the sordid immorality that occurs commonly among the leadership and the laity of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Healing movements. I have previously recounted the transgressions of some in the Prophetic Movement, including the homosexuality and alcoholism of Paul Cain, the seduction, sexual and spiritual abuse of women by Bob Jones, and the adultery and drunkenness of Todd Bentley.
The multitude of egregious moral failures among the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Prophetic sectors of the church require exploration. Why is there such a prevalence of financial and sexual transgression among the leaders of this group? Why is integrity so lacking? Why is there no fear of God before the eyes of these men and women who publicly disgrace the name of Yahshua? Why do the mass of churchgoers in these churches tolerate this behavior? Why are these men and women’s sins made light of, allowing them to either continue to minister without interruption, or to quickly return to ministry after a period described as “restoration”?
I believe the answer lies to a large degree with the shift away from a focus on Christ coming to set men and women free from sin, to an emphasis on spiritual gifts. Rather than emphasizing the growth of spiritual character in the disciple’s life, the focus has shifted to one of empty spiritual experiences. This past week someone told me about a young rising star among these segments of the church. When I looked up the person’s name I was led to websites where this young man was speaking of oil supernaturally dripping from his hands and fingers, gold dust appearing, and diamonds miraculously materializing. Vanity of vanities. It is all vanity. None of these things has any power to transform a self-centered, fleshly man or woman into the image of Christ.
The disciple’s cross has been replaced with the mystic’s mantle. Self-denial is eschewed in favor of self-fulfillment. Mortifying the deeds of the flesh has fallen out of vogue. The theme of these new movements is prosperity, ease, pleasure, and the titillation of mystical experiences.
Brothers and sisters, it is gross delusion to believe that God’s favor rests upon covetous and immoral men and women. It does not matter how charismatic the personality, or how spiritually gifted the individual appears, a person is NOT spiritual if their behavior is carnal.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please… Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
“The deeds of the flesh are evident…” These are the very deeds that these men and women are engaging in. Regarding such ones the Spirit of Christ declares, “I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” This truth was declared by all of Christ’s apostles.
I John 3:7-10
Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…
It is insightful to note that of the seven churches Christ addressed in the book of Revelation, there was one that was noted for giving place to a false spirit of prophecy, and sexually immoral behavior. These two things frequently are found together, and they always invite the judgment of Yahweh. To the church of Thyatira, Yahshua spoke the following:
“I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will cast her upon a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence; and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”
God will not be mocked. It matters not how many prophecies a man or woman gives, or how much they speak in tongues. Signs and miracles will avail nothing for a man or woman if they are not living a self-controlled life, putting to death the passions and desires of the flesh.
Now those who belong to Christ Yahshua have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
In the hall of shame that has been set forth in this writing, I seriously wonder whether there is a single individual named who will stand before the Lord and escape the experience declared by Yahshua in the Gospels.
“I tell you, I do not know where you are from; depart from Me, all you evildoers. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth there when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being cast out.”
Brothers and sisters, test all men and all teachings carefully. Do not abandon the exercise of spiritual discernment. Study the word of God. Surrender your will to Christ and take up YOUR CROSS daily to follow Him. I will close this series with the following words of Scripture.
II Peter 2:17-22
These people are as useless as dried-up springs or as mist blown away by the wind. They are doomed to blackest darkness. They brag about themselves with empty, foolish boasting. With an appeal to twisted sexual desires, they lure back into sin those who have barely escaped from a lifestyle of deception. They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of sin and corruption. For you are a slave to whatever controls you. And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.
[New Living Translation]
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
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