My name is John Edwards, and I was a Faith Preacher for ten years and one month. My wife and I attended and graduated from the premiere word of faith seminary in the world. During school I had the opportunity of working for some of the most famous names in the word of faith movement.
We both graduated from school and returned to the Birmingham area and started a charismatic word of faith church in our living room. We had four people at our first service and took up a $300 offering. Over the years, we moved our church to several locations before building our first building on 18 acres of land in Clay, Alabama. Our church had around 300 active members although less than a hundred would attend on any given Sunday. Over all we estimate that we had at least 2,000 members come and go over that ten year period if not more. Charismatic churches we found have extremely high turn over. It was my observation that we would often attract people that had been church members at just about every other charismatic church in town.
I never really liked pastoring because of the politics and constant drama that went on. I loved to teach, visit with people in the hospital, and do the actual work of the ministry, but I hated all the other stuff that goes with it. I stayed frustrated, depressed and I was always discouraged.
As a word of faith Christian, I did all the things that the word of faith teaches. I confessed the Word. I talked in line with the Word. I called things that be not as though they were. I had written out "My Vision" and confessed it out loud almost everyday, all fourteen pages of it. I prayed in tongues for hours. I read books and listened to hundreds, if not to thousands of Cd's by the prominent word of faith teachers. I went to seminars, revivals, classes and to all sorts of healing meetings, increase meetings, Holy Ghost meetings, Holy laughter meetings and even to numerous early morning prayer meetings. It was a tradition at our church to meet at four in the morning to pray for two hours. For many years I prayed, believed and confessed miracles, signs and wonders for our ministry. But not much happened along those lines. In fact, I buried a lot of people over those years, including my daughter that died of a brain tumor at the age of fourteen. I was constantly perplexed that the message of faith and healing that I was preaching did not seem to work in the lives of the congregation. It seemed like we had all of the same experiences, trials and tribulations as the other church folks around town. I was for sure that there should be a clear distinction between the people of the Word and the denominational people. We had revelation knowledge of the Word. We had a leg up on the Body of Christ. We had the Holy Ghost, prayed in tongues and most of all we had the word of faith message that was full of God's victory, prosperity and healing power. But there was really no difference between us and them. By them, I am referring to the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Assembly of God churches that we as word of faith people thought were missing out. I mocked their teachings and beliefs for years. I learned it from my word of faith teachers and peers. I continued the tradition.
About a year and a half ago and good friend from Tulsa sent me a CD teaching on pride. I hated it. It really bothered me a lot and got me to thinking and praying which is sometimes a dangerous thing to do! I had ministry business to attend to in Indianapolis and in Michigan, so I must have listened to that Cd a dozen times. It convicted me of self. It convicted me of pride. It opened my eyes to some of my motives. More than anything, it revealed to me that I had an enormous ego that could never, ever be content.
I realized that over the years, that I had transformed from being on fire for God to being on fire for me. Everything was about me. My vision, my church, my success, my reputation, my dream, my church, my services, my anointing, my, my, my, me, me ,me. It had become all about me, but how did this happen?
Everything in my life revolved around the prosperity of my vision and things that I wanted. I took out my note book and took a look at my confessions. They were all about me and my vision. Things that I wanted. It shocked me at how my relationship with God had become all about prosperity and what I could "believe" God for. My life had become full of faith formulas, confessions, mechanics and legalism.
As I studied, prayed and meditated, I could find nothing that I was doing wrong. I was just becoming a product of what I had been teaching for years. I had become humanistic. My view of God had become inward instead of God-ward. I began to re-examine my doctrines and word of faith teachings and realized that I had deceived myself into thinking that I was in control of my life and circumstances. I had taught and believed that I could control everything with my faith and confession. So I began to revisit these teachings and do a more in depth study. I started listening to ministers that I would have mocked a year before.
Over that year I believe that I have identified FIVE MAIN AREAS of erroneous teaching that are the very foundations of the word of faith movement. I would like to share those five with you now if you are interested. If not, then dont read any further. It is not my intention to destroy anyone's faith. I just know and realize that there is some serious error in the word of faith teachings that I must address, partly because I taught this message for many years to thousands of people.
Area of Error #1 Confession Obsession
The thing that most attracted me to the word of faith message is that it gave me control of my life. It gave me a say in what was happening to me. It gave me a say in my future. The word of faith message is anchored on the idea that every word spoken from your mouth has a creative force or nature of it's own. WOF teaches that words have power, and that when they are spoken in faith that they will come to pass exactly as they were spoken. The same principal will also work in reverse. Talking negative, or talking fear will produce negative things in life. If you go around talking health, then you will get health. If you go around talking defeat, then you will be defeated. The problem is that many people take this teaching to the extreme and end up in total bondage. I had a friend on staff that is a good example. He took this teaching to it's limits. One day he called in sick. The next day he showed up at work and I asked him what had been wrong with him. (I found out that he had had a cist removed from his jaw the day before.) He would not answer me. He was afraid that if he said it, he would have it! He already had it! Another friend came to church with a metal splinter in his eye. His eye was swollen shut, but he was going around and telling everyone that nothing was wrong with his eye. Insane, but that is what this teaching will do to a person. They become superstitious and legalistic. What's worse is they become confession police, always monitoring and correcting everyone elses confession. Here are a few of the common catch words and phrases that are popular in the word of faith culture:
Hung by the tongue
You can have what you say
You will have what you say
You possess what you confess
If you say it, you will have it.
You better not say it!
Don't say it, you're claiming it!
Where does this teaching come from? Not the Bible! I will be the very first to say that words are powerful and important. The Word of God is clear on that. But the word of faith teaches that you can function like God by speaking faith and creating things, and that is NOT in the Bible. That is witchcraft and humanism. That is New Age and Christian Science. Word of faith people take a passage in Mark 11:23 and try to interpret it in a way that is unscriptural. In that passage, in the King James Version, at the tail end of it, Jesus says: "He shall HAVE WHATSOEVER HE SAITH". That one clause, at the end of that verse, is the whole premises of the word of faith teaching on confession. He shall have WHATSOEVER HE SAITH. WOF teachers tell us that that will work for the good or for the bad. Positive or negative, you will have what you say. But there are many problems with this doctrine and I would like to share a few of them with you if I may.
1) This was a common expression in Jewish culture. The "Mountain" would be referred in today's language as "red tape". Jesus was using an hyperbole (exaggeration) of moving a mountain to teach the disciples that nothing is possible with God. This was a common expression among Jewish rabbis, and the common man of that day would not have taken it literally. (besides, has anyone ever moved a real mountain by speaking to it?)
2) If this was a literal commandment and spiritual law, then there would be extensive teaching on it by Jesus and it would be extensively taught in the Epistles to the Church. Surely if Jesus meant that everything that we spoke would come to pass that, he would have issued many warnings and guidelines!
3) If you read this same passage in Matthew, it is worded a little differently. In addition to that, this particular verse is translated differently in dozens of other good Bible translations. Faith teachers have taught extensively and exhaustively on this one clause of Mark 11:23, and their doctrine rides on the exact wording of the KJV.
4) It simply does not work. A while back I was cleaning out my garage and ran across a sealed envelope. I opened it up and found a list of things that I was "speaking and confessing" into my life. None of it had come to pass. How discouraged I was!
Think about it. If I could have what I say, I would either be dead or extremely rich by now, and so would you. I have heard many rich and ungodly people make negative statements and still prosper. I have buried many people that had a good confession.
5) It creates a "little God" mentality. Believing that you can have what you say puts you in charge of your life. It makes you feel in control. The Bible is very clear that God is in control, and that the ocean, stars, Kings and animals obey His voice. Romans 8:28 Eph 1:11 Prov 21:1 Acts 2:23-2-23 and hundreds of others scriptures prove that God is the Sovereign Creator and controller of events, not man.
I have seen first hand the discouragement and disappointment that this teaching has caused church folks. One girl came up to me and said that her favorite football team would win because she was "speaking it". Her team was blown out the next day. I wonder what effect that had on her faith? I could write of many more situations and cases where people were confessing and speaking and did not receive.
Of course the word of faith has the perfect answer on this: 1) you did not believe, or 2) you had sin in your life. How convenient to the faith teacher, and how devastating to the Christian.
6) Go back to Mark chapter 10, and you will see a great example of Jesus saying "NO".
7) There are many so called "bad confessions" in the Bible. Jesus and Paul made numerous statements that would fall short of word of faith standards today. Jesus always told it like it was. He never denied the circumstance. Paul went for chapters complaining about his circumstances. So did David.
I made a word of faith pastor so mad one day that he will not speak to me. He was yelling in the phone about how you can have what you say! So I said to him, write down three things that you want to happen in church this Sunday, and if they come to pass then you are right and I am wrong. Here is what he was believing for:
1) At least 100 people in the service
2) That everyone that came would be saved and instantly healed.
3) That they would receive a $10,000 offering.
I told him to call me Sunday night if these things manifested. They did not, and he has not called me since. Of course the word of faith has an answer to this too, that other people's will was involved. But other people's will is also involved in bank loans, pay raises and other things that they confess. I know another fellow that firmly believes in the confession brings possession message. He makes confessions of prosperity all the time and gets new cars and homes. But he also comes from a wealthy family that gives to him all the time. My faith would work like that too if my parents were rich!
Words are important. But they do not create. Only God can create. This notion of us being able to frame our world with our words is humanism. This teaching attempts to elevate man and lower God. long is the list of famous faith preachers that died sick. Their confession did not help them.
Area of Error #2 Greed and Materialism
The word of faith message has been dubbed as the Prosperity Gospel, Name it Claim It, Health and Wealth, Tag it bag it and a dozen other labels. Why? Because if you turn on your TV this Sunday you will be bombarded with prosperity teaching by faith preachers wearing fancy suits, fine jewelry and flying their own jets. They will claim that these are the blessings of God and that you too can wear the same clothes and fly the same jets. Before you read any further, pick up your Bible and read First Timothy chapter six out loud to your self. The Bible speaks plainly about greed and chasing wealth. God forbids it. It is idolatry.
The main reason that this message is working for the preacher on TV is that they are soliciting your money as seed for your blessing. It is misrepresenting the Word of God.
These ministers will tell you that Jesus was rich, and that He wants you rich too. But lets look at some facts:
1) Jesus was born into poverty. His mother had to offer a turtle dove as a sin offering because she could not afford a lamb.
2) Jesus was a carpenter. If Jesus had been a land owner he would have been a farmer. In Bible days, carpenters were peasants. It was the lowliest of trades. It would be like shining shoes at a bus station today.
Most of the prosperity teaching that the word of faith ministers teach on is drawn out of the Old Testament. That is because the New Testament does not promise material wealth and prosperity. The New Testament promises trials and hardships that will refine your faith. In 2nd Corinthians 8 & 9, Paul is taking up an offering for the poor saints. He does not rebuke them for being poor. Jesus never promised money and earthly riches. He did promise that He would meet our needs. Our needs are clothing, food and water, not $300, 000 mansions, gold, jets and sports cars.
In the Old Covenant God promised Israel material wealth and riches if they would obey and serve Him. It did not work. God then dissolved that Old Covenant based on works and law, and started a New Covenant based on faith and grace. The New Testament is spiritual. It is full of spiritual promises and blessings to the church. Now we have absolute forgiveness, right standing, peace, joy and fellowship with God. We are now promised eternal life! It is a better covenant established on better promises.
I know many word of faith ministers that are extremely money minded. It comes out in their teaching and in their lifestyle. Word of faith churches are constantly having "Increase Seminars", "Prosperity Seminars" and they sell hundreds of CDs on how to obtain wealth and riches. I think that it is sickening to the heart of God. I know that this teaching and lifestyle of the TV ministers is a stench in the nostrils of the world. Even sinners despise this message of greed.
There are many examples of Godly people in the Bible that were poor. Even the Apostle John spent his last days in poverty at a labor camp. But today the word of faith preachers are raisng money for jets.
Area of Error #3 Bogus Claims of Miracle Healings
I am against all sickness. Everytime I get sick, I pray and ask for healing. My wife is a Hospice Nurse. I believe in healing. Everytime I preach at a church, I lay hands on the sick, anoint them with oil and ask God to heal. But to be honest, I have not seen any of these miracle healings that word of faith people proclaim night and day. I have been to so many healing crusades that I cannot even count them all. I have been to see and hear just about every famous and renown faith healer in action. I have even assisted in some of these meetings and have been backstage. I have never seen or witnessed a healing miracle. Many people send me emails about miracles that they have seen or heard about, but they almost always include a doctor and medicine. Let me give you my definition of a miracle healing:
1) The sickness has to be one that will not go away on its on.
2) It has to be organic in nature, such as mental retardation, downs syndrome, total blindness from birth, terminal terminal cancer, confirmed AIDS, or an serious injury that will not heal such as missing limbs or severe burns. Or birth defects.
3) The miracle healing has to take place at the moment of prayer, just like in the Bible. No doctors. No medicine. just prayer right there in the healing line. When Jesus and the Apostles healed, it was instantaneous, without chemo or doctors helping. (I am thankful for doctors and nurses)
4) The healing has to be verified by a doctor, and has to last. The dictionary defines a miracle as an event or an occurence that defies scientific laws.
These miracle healings do not take place anymore as they did in the Bible days for the simple reason that those miracles were performed by Jesus and His Apostles. Many word of faith ministers claim these gifts of faith, healing and miracles but there is no actual evidence to support their claims. I have asked and asked for MRI's, X-rays and physician's statements but to no avail.
I do believe that God can heal and does heal. I do believe that He can do a miracle and still does them from time to time. But if you believe the claims and testimonies of today's word of faith ministers, they are healing on the same level as Jesus and they simply are not. They are misleading the sick and wrecking their faith.
The charismatic word of faith church has been plagued and dupped by hundreds of fakes and charlatans over the years. It is a culture where manipulation, peer pressure and lies prosper among the desperate and gullible. I have witnessed many sick people get their hopes up for a miracle just to return home sick and confused.
I do not believe that the sign gifts are in operation in the Church today. If I am wrong, and they are in operation, then they have lost a lot of their power, and are in no way as powerful as they were in the early church. Of course. the word of faith has an answer to that: 1) they didnt have faith 2) they were in sin.
It is evident that the sign gifts were for the Jews, which seek a sign. Acts 2:22 John 4:48 John 6:30. God always spoke to Israel through signs. There are three time slots in the Bible where God did multiple miracles through the hands of men:
1) Moses and the Exodus
2) The Prophets prior to the Captivity
3) The establishment of the New Testament Church by Jesus and His Apostles.
These signs gifts not only verified the Gospel, but validated the Apostles that God would later use to pen Holy Scripture.
As you read on down the chronological time line of the New Testament, you read less and less of miracles and healings. Even Paul told Timothy to drink a little wine for his OFTEN INFIRMITIES. He did not instruct him to confess healing scriptures or to send him a seed offering for his breakthrough. Others in the New Testament got sick and were not healed through miracles. Even Paul was stoned and had to heal up over time. Galatians 4:13-14 Paul was also unable to heal Epaphroditus through the gifts, but said the healing was the mercy of God.
Word of faith ministers teach that bodily healing is in the Atonement. I always wondered if that were the case, it would seem that when someone got saved that they would be instantly healed. I mean, if the sin is forgiven, why is the sickness still there? I believe that God heals according to His will and that He works through prayer, but I do not believe that the word of faith ministers operate in the same sign gifts that the Apostles did.
Area of Error #4 A Fixation on Faith
This may be the worse reason. The Word of Faith exalts the Faith Message above the salvation message and Jesus. Faith is elevated. Faith is taught. faith becomes an idol. It is called the Word of Faith, and the Faith Message for a reason. Faith preachers preach and teach on the subject of faith more than they teach on anything else! They teach faith as a tool to receive blessings and to obtain things. They do not teach faith as in Christ, but as a formula. Look at any word of faith book table and you will see stacks of Cds series such as:
1) How to make your Faith work
2) How to have great Faith
3) The A, B, C,s of Faith
4) The Building Blocks of Faith
5) How to release your Faith
6) How to get faith
7) The 1, 2, 3's of Faith
8) How to write your own ticket with God.
9) Faith, the key to victory
10) Faith for Miracles..........I could go on and on and on. I used to teach faith about three times a month. It was exciting and fun to teach. Impossible to pastor. I spent many hours trying to explain to church members why it was not working.
What the Faith Message has done is to turn faith in God into a myriad of formulas and spiritual laws. Word of faith teachers take every little verse that mentions faith and puts them into legalistic boxes. In the Word, Jesus commented on peoples faith all the time, but it was their faith and belief in HIM that he was speaking of. Not their mechanics and formulas. Jesus responded to people in different ways at different times. He was responding to their FAITH IN HIM, not to their faith as a cosmic force or energy. These people that came to Jesus for healing had not been listening to teaching CDs on how to make your faith work. They just approached Jesus as they were, with no formulas and mechanics and got healed.
Faith is a trusting in God, not a tool. It is not a force but a relationship and a belief in God.
The word of faith focuses on faith, not on salvation. Not on character. Not on seperation. Not on dying to ones self, Not on service. Not on holiness. It is a message that revolves around the desires of "Me"! It is all about me! My faith. My healing. My prosperity.
The word of faith message promises that God will answer all of our prayers, in the positive, if we will only have faith. But in 1 John 5:14-15 the Will of God is involved, not just our desires. I find it interesting, that in every single one of the mighty faith scriptures such as Mark 11:23-24 and John 15:7 that Jesus was teaching his Apostles in private. He told THEM in John 14:14 that if THEY asked anything in His Name that He would do it. Faith preachers teach that this specific promise is for all of us, that Jesus will do anything that we ask in faith. You and I both know that we have asked for many things that we did not get! One prominent faith teacher claimed that in 40 years, he received every single thing that he had asked for in prayer. I cannot believe that. That has heaped so much condemnation on people that have not had some prayers answered.
If you were to listen to the entire New Testament out loud on a Cd player, you would hear a different message than the one being taught by the word of faith. by listening to the Word of God in context, I realized that I had pulled many passages out of their setting and built formulas out of them. Paul had some prayers go unanswered. remember his thorn in the flesh? Word of faith people will say that it was up to Paul to use his authority as a believer to drive the thorn away, but seeing how he was the one that wrote the most on the subject, I dont think that was what was going on. God was teaching Paul to rely on His Grace in the midst of the attacks of satan.
As I began to come out of the word of faith movement someone shipped me a crate full of books and Cds by ministers that taught Reformed Theology. As read and listened, I saw a different image of God than the one that I had received from the faith message. Word of faith ministers rareley, if ever, teach on Sovereign Grace, the Sovereignty of God, Election or Predestination. These Doctrines are heavily laced throughout the entire Bible and are irrefutable by honest students of the Word. It does not fit with the word of faith message. The word of faith message puts man in charge of his life and circumstances. In the word of faith it is up to me to govern my world and circumstances through my faith and words. That is what humanism is all about, replacing God with Man.
Area of Error #5 Extra Biblical Revelation
The main founder of the word of faith movement claimed to have had several one on one meetings with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his followers believe him. I do not. The entire word of faith message was formed and broadcasted by this one man that claims to have had many face to face meetings with Jesus. In these meetings he was personally taught the scriptures by the Lord Himself, often gaining key insights on scriptures and the mechanics of faith.
It has been charged by many experts and scholars that this man plagiarized the writings of another preacher in New England that was reportedly influenced by much of the New Age and Christian Science teaching of his day. This minister even attended a college that was famous around the world as a hot bed of New Thought and Eastern Mysticism. Although the minister himself denounced these movements, he constantly taught these same ideas in his sermons using the same catch words and ideology of the cults. He even remarked that all the teaching of Mary Baker Eddy needed was the Blood of Jesus. All of these writings and ideas were then passed on to millions through the teachings of one man. This man often shared his visions. He would tell people that they did not have to accept them, but that did not stop him from sharing what he claimed Jesus said. In one vision. This man claimed that Jesus had transported him to Heaven where he was anointed with a very special healing anointing, transfered from Christ, and that sick people would be healed "IF" they believed the vision. In another vision, this man was told that if people did not receive what he said when he was "in the Spirit" that they would die.
I simply do not believe that these visions happened, and there is no requirement for me to believe in them. In fact, Paul tells us not to receive any other Gospel in Galatians 1:6-9. His visions have theological holes in them, and they do not bear witness with my spirit. The word of faith is another message than the one in the Bible.
The word of faith has been studied and rejected by the Church's most esteemed scholars, theologians and ministers. The word of faith is not found in the writings of the Church Fathers. It is unorthodox. The word of faith can only be crafted by taking scattered scriptures and twisting them to fit through one passage of scripture: Mark 11:23.
Word of faith ministers ignore mountains of Bible passages, even entire books of the Bible, such as Job. Why? They have to. The word of faith does not fit in with the whole counsel God's Word. It is a teaching of half truths and the redefining of terms. Many of the passages critical to word of faith teaching are taken out of their context and setting. Others passages are completely buthchered to line them up with word of faith doctrines.
I could write for days about all of the spiritual abuse that I have seen and experienced in this movement. I define it as a CULT in that it based on claims of a man that claimed extra-revelation from God. It is a movement that has it's roots all the way back to the Garden of Eden when satan told Eve that she could be like God.
This is the last installment on this blog. I am sick of talking and thinking about the word of faith movement. I wish that I had never heard of it. It was the worst 10years of my life. Just like drugs, it was very exciting and felt good at first, then it bacame a bondage and a drain on my faith. It did not work for me, it did not work for the ones that taught me, and it did not work for those I taught it to. In the past I have written much out of offense and anger. But Jesus said woe through him that causes the offence. I was angry and offended because when I asked my teachers and peers hard questions, not only would they not be able to answer them, but they personally insulted and criticized me for asking. One minister even sat at my kitchen table and yelled at me. When I sent emails to my word of faith peers and leaders they were not returned, except to ask me not to email them anymore. So I had to blog it. And I am glad that I did.
Good Bye to the Word of Faith and Good Riddence!