I am a 1998 RHEMA grad. I wish that I had never heard of the place. I wish I had never heard of Kenneth Hagin. I was heavily involved in the Rhema culture and teachings for fourteen years. It was a total waste of my life and money.
Most of my friends and folks thought that I was crazy for getting involved with the Word of Faith, but I wouldn't listen to any of them. I was obsessed with faith and wanted to be so full of faith that I could move mountains. I had several ministers warn me that the teaching at RHEMA were out of balanced and dangerous but I believed in Kenneth Hagin and his visions.
Kenneth Hagin was a preacher and prophet that claimed to have been visited by Jesus Christ on at least eight occasions. At other times he was visited by Angles, went to Hell three times and up to the Throne Room of Almighty God. It has also been well documented that Kenneth Hagin plagiarized massive amounts of writings by EW Kenyon, who taught and mix of Christianity, Christian Science and New Age. I felt that if I went to RHEMA, that I would be around the Prophet of God and that I would become a giant of faith. I wanted control of my life and circumstances. I felt that RHEMA was the greatest place on the planet.
I left the Birmingham Police Department with my early retirement pension and rented my house out and moved to Tulsa. My whole two and a half years in Tulsa cost me around thirty grand in expenses and tuition. It was a terrible time as far as money goes, and it didn't feel to good to watch teachers and pastors driving around in Lexus and luxury vehicles all of the time.
RHEMA was a very strange place to attend church and school. I always had to battle offense and the willie jillies. The place felt wrong on the inside. It was all about faith, submitting to authority, and money. We sang about money. There were faith emblems and faith flower beds and even a gigantic faith shield on the roof that you could see from miles away.
I had come from a background of having been through Marine boot camp at Parris Island, and I had also been through the Police Academy. RHEMA was just as strict. They had more rules than a prison camp. They had ushers with walkie talkies every where, armed security, and they would not let you use the bath room during offering time. I was constantly being rebuked and fussed at. We had to have special stickers on our cars so that we could be spotted if we were at places that we shouldn't be in. We had all kinds of dress codes and rules to abide by. If you were one second late, you got sent to admissions.
I only took one class on prosperity the whole two years, but prosperity was preached night and day. I became an expert on tithing. I heard way more about the tithe than I ever did about the cross. Some of the instructors were rude and harsh and some of them were really awesome. It was an unwritten rule that we could not ask questions during class. One time a black lady got fussed at for saying amen too much. They taught us that there was one specific dance in the Spirit, and that all other dancing was flesh. They were into the Holy Laughter thing real big when I was there, but they would also kick you out of class for laughing too much. They would also take of running during the church services and classes and do speed laps till they fell out, but you could also be kicked out of the service at other times.
Kenneth Hagin was to RHEMA what Brigham Young is to BYU. We held him in high regard and he was treated with the upmost of respect. He would tell us hours of stories and spend hours telling us his visions. Here I was at RHEMA, sitting at the very feet of God's anointed prophet! I even shook hands with him a few times.
I will say this honestly. I never felt a lick of love there except from two instructors. It was very controlling, very rigid, and extremely legalistic. It was like being in boot camp in many ways.
Many RHEMA grads go onto to start churches and duplicate everything that RHEMA was. There are hundreds of Word of Faith churches all over the world that are cookie cutters of RHEMA. I have been to many of them over the years. I have been screamed at by one of their directors for asking questions. There are many grads out there pastoring the same way they were handled at RHEMA. I call it mirroring. Kenneth Hagin claimed that he was a prophet and told many horror stories that scared us. There was much teaching on submission and obedience.
As I look back on my fourteen years of living in that culture and atmosphere, and can now see where I was spiritually abused and manipulated. I can see that I spent fourteen years in legalism and fear. I was brainwashed with a different message than the one found in the Gospel. It was a terrible experience. I am still in the healing and restoration process. It will take a lot of time.
I get emails from RHEMA grads all the time that had the same problems and experiences. For a long time I thought that I was the only one. Now I correspond with RHEMA grads on a daily basis. There is even a large church in Tulsa that is starting a recovery group for RHEMA grads! That is awesome. There are thousands of people that have left the Word of Faith that need help and time to heal. Many of them will no longer go to any kind of church. These people need our love and prayers.