strange fires

The Five Fold Ministry And Spiritual Abuse: Part 3 of 4

by Rev. Rafael D. Martinez, Co-Director, Spiritwatch Ministries

One of the popular marks of the modern evangelical movement, out of which the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds have emerged, is how eagerly it identifies itself with what is best described as "old time religion." This is a term coined by popular evangelical thought that associates itself in cherished religious traditions that can be traced at once back to the piety of early American Protestant revivalism as well as that of the ancient first century church. Indeed, this is a spiritual supposition rooted in the kind of restorationism we've been talking about. This historical connection to the neverending progression of Christian church history is undeniable, although there is much about the restorationist ideal itself that could be questioned.

The point is that the concept of "old time religion" is near and dear to the ideals of virtually all Christendom, even if how it is understood varies from church to church. But along with old time religion has come an equally old time deception, a scourge that has done more to confuse, mislead, smother and outright destroy many earnest and zealous people who have sincerely sought to serve God as Christian believers. This terrible phenomenon can literally be defined as spiritual abuse and it is the sad context in which this has taken place in places where the fivefold idea is held that we must now examine.

Spiritual abuse, as we have defined it in other places in our website articles, is the inner psychological and emotional trauma suffered by members of churches/religious organizations which have used authoritarian and manipulative teachings and practices to control both their thought and behavior - whether the abuse was intentional or not. The bottom line of spiritual abuse is that it occurs when edification is cloaked manipulation. Unscrupulous leaders inflict spiritual abuse through the domination and control of followers who are compelled by induced fear or pride to adopt lifestyle changes that serves their own agenda - not the love of God or the spiritual health of the follower. Ultimately, this exploitation leaves them in a piteous dependence upon their association with the church or religious group to provide them meaning, a relationship with God, and even any notion of personality or significance. This is a tragic and all too common reality in both cultic movements and aberrant churches. What is even more tragic, however, is that most spiritually abusive leaders of aberrant churches sincerely believe that the degree of unbiblical submission they are demanding of their followers is necessary for their good. There are few more devastating personal intrusions into life then the spiritual trauma inflicted by twisted people who claimed divine authority to gain trusted access into the deepest part of someone's heart, soul and mind and to manipulate them at their will in degrading, terrifying ways beyond belief.   

Biblical Insight Into Spiritual Abuse

One of the accusations made by skeptics today is that the Bible is an ancient, dusty old book that is out of touch with the needs of modern man, offering answers to questions no one has asked for thousands of years in a completely different culture. While this sounds like an airtight argument, it implodes once the pages of the Bible are fairly considered. The full counsel and wisdom of God's Word speaks authoritatively and completely to not only the need of humanity in the past but today and in the years to come should the return of Christ tarry. And on the subject of spiritual abuse, the Scriptures give clear and sobering insight into how spiritually abusive authorities plagued the people of God in Bible times with the same kind of shameful behavior that we see today in the Christian church.

In the book of the prophet Ezekiel is recorded one of the most gripping indictments of Yahweh himself upon the rulers of Israel whom He addressed as "the shepherds" of his own people. It stands as probably the most detailed divine insight given in the Bible as to how followers, referred to as sheep, are abused by spiritual leaders:

Ezekiel 34:1-6

And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them.

And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them.

The prophetic utterance of God as delivered by Ezekiel sternly rebukes Israel's leaders for their vicious exploitation and manipulative control of the people of God. God's divine perspective misses nothing as He reveals how Israel's population were systematically being neglected due to the self-centered interest shown by these errant "shepherds", and promises them that their rule will be cut short by the extension of His judgment upon them.

In John 10 in the New Testament, Jesus uses the same shepherding metaphor in the parables he told that sharply rebuked the self-righteous Pharisees who were confronting him for his healing of a blind man on the Sabbath. For them, this was an intolerable breach of their legalistic mindset that forbade any "work" on such a day. Christ's parable in verses 11-13 sharply contrasted the care of a flock of sheep by a cowardly and self-centered hired hand with that of a self-sacrificial shepherd when danger threatened it:

John 10:11-13

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.

In relating this parable, Jesus gave further insight into how spiritually deficient ministers conduct themselves as their flocks are confronted by other leadership figures who are plainly abusive. True shepherds stand to defend their flocks, but those lacking in Christian character and integrity will instead stand aside and allow the attack upon and exploitation of Christian churches continue: they will not hesitate to compromise and display shameful cowardice under the real trial as they abandon their congregations to the full impact of abusive influence. But in readily submitting their shepherding responsibility when challenged by the supposedly more "highly anointed", so-called "shepherds" actually demonstrate a shocking and utter dereliction of pastoral duty. The fact that Christ delivers this warning to the Pharisees in contrasting such "hirelings", as He identifies them, to true spiritual leaders demonstrates how keenly aware he was of their own example that perpetuated their own abusive and manipulative direction.

And a final glimpse of how spiritual abuse would spread throughout the Christian era is chillingly related in other New Testament passages. Here we see apostolic prophecies delivered by Paul and Peter about the arising of false prophets, false teachers and false apostles who deceive Christians, divide churches and deny the Lordship of Christ:

Acts 20:29-30

For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

2 Cor. 11:12-15

But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

2 Peter 2:1-3

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

In Acts 20, Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders had to be as jolting as the words of Christ given to the twelve disciples at their last supper before his death: it is filled with encouraging exhortation as well as sobering lamentation. Paul gives them prophetic perspective about how even among themselves corruption of leadership would occur that would shatter the unity of the Ephesian church with false teaching and drawing away their own followings, even reminding them he'd been warning them of this for a full three years in his ministry there. In 2 Corinthians 11, after his epic warning of the church in verse 4 about their toleration of those who preached falsehood out of an arrogant desire to create their own followings, Paul plainly calls these figures "false apostles" and likens them to the Satan's own masquerade as an "angel of light." It is these apostolic pretenders whose false doctrine and personal agenda are hidden by an astonishingly and supremely deceptive personal manner.

And all of this was not lost on the apostles of the New Testament church: 2 Peter 2 contains the admonition of the apostle Peter who warns of "false prophets" and "false teachers." These were wandering characters who rambled around the ancient Near East seeking followings and who, when accepted into Christian fellowships, secretly introduced "damnable heresies" that denied Christ and morally and spiritually corrupted their followers. Their personal manner and smooth talk lured many into their orbit, set upon an intentional deception that cunningly weighed their audience's hearts and minds as sure as one would inspect fruit or cattle for defects in the marketplace.

We could continue reviewing other Biblical passages that bring further insight into this horrific history, but the message here is unmistakable in its clarity: the Triune God views very dimly those who lay claim to the care of the people of God, and who instead abuse, deceive and oppress them. God's essential nature, as the Bible says, is love, but this is completely obscured by the minister of God who demonstrates hateful dysfunction in his or her own public and private character and example. Such a misrepresentation of the glory of God is a twistedly depraved act that incurs His great anger.  In fact, He makes clear that dire judgment faces these parties which will bring upon them eternal destruction and separation from God!

And the objects of that divine wrath are whom the apostles targeted for rebuke - those who claimed to be apostles, prophets and teachers who abused their authority and plundered the church with demonic cunning! That is why the ministry of discernment that upholds truth and exposes error as well as providing pastoral admonition as well as prophetic confrontation is so vital in the last days for a church that is blazing with wildfire and strange fire that refuses to be quenched because of its ability to tap into sources of fuel so easily in the pews. Unfortunately, as we will see, discernment in the last days church is at all time low and the proliferation of abusive church leadership continues to grow, with errant fivefold "ministers" at the forefront.  

3 Traits Of Spiritually Abusive Groups

What does spiritual abuse look like? The cultic groups that prey upon unwary churchgoing people are often the most visible perpetrators of spiritual abuse and as we shall see will provide three observable examples for us to gauge what the line is between spiritual direction and spiritual abuse. As a Pentecostal minister who has been involved in attempting to counter the advances of the Cultworld, that dark culture of deception knit throughout human society seen in cultic movements globally, I have seen enough of this to know what I am speaking with, having labored in this field for over 20 years. I have intimate and first hand knowledge with the social circles of cult groups, have been in their meetings, talked with leaders and ex-members alike, and have a vast library of cultic literature and media.

I did not start out in the ministry in 1983 to go this direction but the Holy Spirit had other plans for me, and I have since become an observer as well as participant in the effort to understand cults for what they are and how to respond to them. The following three traits are what I have readily seen in each and every cultic group I have ever followed.

The theologies and practices may differ, but the human equation is always the same:

Abuse Trait # 1: A Legalistic Worldview Mandated By Doctrinal Error - Cults relentlessly indoctrinate their followers into embracing their own group's perspective on reality as the only "true" way to think and act as a result of their emphasized application of unbiblical and false teaching. Members of cults believe that ultimate truth is determined only by their leadership's unique interpretation of Scripture, with no regard to whether or not it is Biblically based or logically sound. So their own personal lifestyle choices are therefore defined by rigid codes of conduct, tradition and regulation that smother personal initiative. This arises from the creation of a rigid black and white mindset based on their own group moral imperatives that are taken from the group's twisting of Scripture.

In the cultic church Remnant Fellowship, the precepts of its self-proclaimed "prophet" Gwen Shamblin directly impact the daily lives of its membership. Shamblin and her cadre of leaders micromanage Remnant members by compelling obedience to their personal directives drawn from her unbiblical teachings that leave no room for discussion. This is executed by a leadership hierarchy they claim is a Biblically mandated "authority line." This top-down direction effectively reinforces their control to a degree beyond belief. In fact Shamblin's hatred of the Christian Church and self-inflated view of her church movement's "purity" is so warped that she uses a Hollywood motif as a propaganda tool to indoctrinate her following with. Remnant identifies itself as “Zion” and everyone not a part of their fellowship as being a part of the evil “Matrix" of what she calls "counterfeit churches." A video shown during a Remnant "Passover" service featured a clip from a battle scene from "The Matrix" in which footage of Shamblin and her son Michael dressed as Neo and Trinity was interspersed with the cuts from the movie showing the actual characters battling a squad of riot police in an office building. Not surprisingly, the police were labeled "the counterfeit church" in the caption and the symbolism drawn from their slaughter by the Shamblins grimly unmistakable. This kind of extremist thought is, understandably, a subject not expressed to outsiders, but relentlessly emphasized in Remnant social circles. (25)

Abuse Trait # 2: Control Of Conscience By Coercion - To maintain control over them, cults routinely use emotional and psychological leverages to compel their members to disregard their own consciences and independent thought and obey their group's doctrinal and practical commitments despite any misgivings. This is an intentional control of behavior through control of thought gained by social institutions like peer pressure, emotional attachments, family ties, and alleged displays of supernatural signs and deceptive claims. The personal cost of such manipulation is of no consequence to the cult group itself; the focus is upon a member's compliance with the group's program, ritual, philosophy or practice no matter whatever doubts or second thoughts they may harbor.

In the cultic Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, this is seen in the universal church practice of "bearing testimony."  Every member in good standing with the LDS Church will be ready to passionately state that they have a "testimony," an inner personal conviction, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith, founder of the cult, was a true prophet of God and that the Church is the "true church" of the "restoration." To create this vast sea of testimonially-oriented membership, the entire culture of the LDS Church has been employed over its 150 years of existence to create an environment in which these three central truths have been continually expressed and reinforced through the cultural life of Mormon piety ranging from their family life to academic pursuits. It is impossible to overstate this kind of irresistible influence. From the cradle to the grave, several generations of LDS members have been conditioned to avoid personal engagement of any dissenting train of thought that challenges these - and other - cherished beliefs. Any objective fact that reveals these claims to be in doubt is quashed or short-circuited by the cultural reality surrounding them. (26)

Abuse Trait # 3: Phobic Indoctrination Through Authorities With No Accountability - There is perhaps no more gripping human motivation than the fear of displeasing authority figures, a well-established trait of human nature not lost upon cult leadership. If the positive leverages of family and friends and folklore within a cult's social circles are not enough to bring a member's compliance to their pretense of divine authority, then equally powerful negative ones are seamlessly employed, such as the use of fear. Irrational fears or phobias that the cult's authority has deeply implanted in the hearts and minds of their members are freely used as mental pressure points to induce them to submit readily to their control. They are irrational because they have little to no basis for reality in any other stable social setting, but cults are nations with their own rules, their own realities in which their rulers decree with absolute authority what should be and what shouldn't be. And the underlying and unspoken fear of discipline as dictated by unquestionable "divine" authority of cult leaders is used to force cultic conformity – not Christian unity. The indoctrination of these phobias is a diabolically subtle yet irrefutable splinter in the mind's eye of every cult member alive today, a social control mechanism of terrifying power.

There is perhaps no clearer example of this then in the phobia indoctrination readily observable in the propaganda issued by the leadership hierarchy of Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide, the Watchtower Society. For over 100 years the Watchtower has taught their Witness constituency that they alone are "God's visible organization" with an authority above question that is executed by their own system of overseers and local elders. Witnesses readily refer to the Society as their "mother" whom they are to readily obey. And part of that obedience is to avoid overstepping their well-defined boundaries that are based upon literal fear-mongering. Jehovah's Witnesses fear associating closely with non-believers, fear reading the Bible without a Watchtower publication to interpret it for them, fear crosses or religious icons as portals to demonic activity, and fear not being found by Jehovah to be actively engaged in their door to door preaching work and judged unworthy of surviving the horrors of an impending battle of Armageddon. All of these potent and yet irrational fears are the foundations of the authoritarian manipulation that the Society readily imposes to keep its Witness flocks in line with their own twisted agenda (27).

And these are only three very visible tips in a vast iceberg of frozen spiritual horror that slice the surfaces of the seas of humanity and chills all by its passage. It is the vast and unseen bulk of its glacial mass that wreaks social havoc and almost defies description among millions of people worldwide today even as you read this.

When our preceding survey of the Bible's perspective on how spiritual abuse occurs is considered with the verifiable history about how cults abuse their disciples, the discerning will enter a new world altogether and gain a perspective that precious few people ever approach. They will be approaching the portals of the Cultworld, an alternate spiritual reality hidden in plain sight all around us that quietly enslaves millions of people with chains of fear, intimidation, legalism and abusive religion. We've offer these links to other articles in our website that discuss cultism, cult mind control and religious abuse. Suffice it to say that this dark land's cultic influence is very definitely an abusive reality that has penetrated every level of society - a cultural milieu that includes both the secular and the sacred.

This brings us back to the point at hand: the very real and present danger that spiritual abuse occurs in the fivefold ministry culture. Inevitably, there will be those in the tribe of five fold ministers who will read these articles and yet insist that "Oh but we're Christians! That junk only goes on in those crazy, wacked out cults! They follow men but we're led by the Spirit! We're the anointed new breed God has raised up." I can understand how even the vaguest suggestion that fivefold ministers could be involved in abusing their followers would make all shrink with horror and sputter in indignant, angry denial. We're not in any way suggesting that all fivefold ministries are cultic. That's the furthest thing from our minds.

But to those who say that this kind of "stuff" goes on only among "wacked out cults" conveniently elsewhere, we respond: "Oh really?"

Let's see how "Spirit-led" some fivefold ministry leaders really are.  

The Slippery Slope To Five Fold Spiritual Abuse

Let me carefully qualify again what we are asserting here: A sizable majority of the fivefold ministry are godly people seeking to preach Christ and His Kingdom. Not all who claim to be in a "fivefold office" are guilty of spiritual abuse. If that fine point of distinction has been lost in the midst of our articles, let us again emphasize this once more. While there are far more sound leaders in fivefold circles worldwide, there very definitely exists a highly visible fivefold minority that exhibit an internalized imbalance in their doctrinal and practical influence that in too many cases has led to abusive religious trauma. We want to now examine how these extremists tragically have spun out of control down a very real, slippery slope from the heights of Christian idealism into cultic instability.

There are generally four missteps that fivefold ministries will make when sliding slowly into dangerous imbalance and possible abusiveness, and any or all of these that can be verifiably observed in their activity should be red flags for real concern. Allow me to repeat this for emphasis: observation of any one of these four serious errors in a fivefold church is a sign of imbalance that signals an incipient imbalance that can range in severity from unbiblical elitism to full blown cultism. You will proceed down the primrose path of restorational romanticism at your very real peril if you do not heed these warning signs! Where these errors are being observed, the potential for spiritual abuse is a real and present danger and should be intentionally watched for.

After my years of ministry in Charismatic and Pentecostal churches, I believe I can summarize them in the following four ways.

Misstep # 1 - The Dismissal Of "Sola Scriptura" - In this day and age when the enthusiastic pursuit of experience-oriented spirituality, the dumbing down of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity continues to lead to the loss of even the most basic precepts of the Protestant Reformation that it directly descends from. Many are scarcely aware that there was a Reformation or what the issues where that were concerned (a sin of omission that many Reformed believers themselves are just as guilty of). Certainly, the most well-known and foundational Biblical truth that the Protestant Reformation is what has come to be called "Sola Scriptura."  This is the Biblical precept that the Scriptures alone are the final authority in all matters of doctrine and practice which stands in stark contrast to Roman Catholic belief that religious tradition created by papal decree and church councils is the final grounds for truth.

For generations, Protestant believers have embraced the fact the Bible itself is the only source for authoritative Christian teaching which all can read and understand as the teaching ministry of the Spirit of God illuminates it. The apostle Paul establishes this truth most clearly in 2 Timothy 3:16-17: 

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

In questionable fivefold ministries, this timeless spiritual truth is downplayed in favor of their greater emphasis and reliance upon what is popularly called "revelation knowledge." Revelation knowledge is a source of divine truth that involves literally revealed understanding and information granted to the fivefold minister by direct spiritual illumination that can occur at any time and under any circumstance. It is contrasted to what is called "sense knowledge," or the wisdom gained by using one's physical senses such as reading the Bible or hearing it taught. This "revealed truth" is subjectively determined by the inner spiritual insight of the fivefold minister and  is usually presented as divine truth that is far more relevant, applicable and authoritative than Scripture itself. There are no outright criticisms of the Bible given, but the fivefold minister who overemphasizes his "revelation knowledge" effectively relegate Scripture to the shelf as old revelation that must be regularly supplemented by "fresh words" of newer revelation that establish badly needed and timely "present truth."

Listen to fivefold "prophet" and leader Bill Hamon's explanation of this point:

Just as the human head's directives to the eye are not the same as those for the ear or any other part, Christ's specific Will and instructions for each member and ministry in the Body are all not the same. They must be personalized by individual application. For that reason, the Bible can only give general directions to the whole Body of Christ, a few qualifications and requirements for certain ministries and a general description of what to do. Without the workings of the Holy Spirit and Christ's fivefold ministry  - especially the prophet – the Bible cannot by itself provide specific directions and reveal the will of God concerning all personal matters."(28)

Hamon's teaching is far from unique: his belief that the Bible cannot provide personal direction without divine revelation that fivefold ministers intervene to supply it is held widely in many fivefold circles. This same disturbing point was emphasized in a 1998 ministry newsletter of the equally well known and influential Rick Joyner:

"Who is the authority on whether the word is being rightly divided? The One who wrote the book. Doesn't that leave a lot of room for subjectivity in our discernment? Yes. It utterly compels us to be dependent on the Holy Spirit. If we do not know the Lord's voice we will continually be fooled by all of the other voices in the world. There will never be a principle so full of wisdom that it will be a substitute for knowing the Lord's voice for ourselves. This does mean that subjectivity exists in discernment, but subjectivity not only exists--it is essential for discernment of truth. .. The Lord must become our personal Savior, our personal Lord, and truth must be personal if we are really going to know it. For this reason the Bible was meant to be relatively subjective in its interpretation. This was not to promote private interpretations, but to require each of us to be seekers of the Lord and His truth ourselves. We will not keep from being deceived just because we know someone who knows the Bible. Everyone of us must know the Spirit of Truth."  (29)

Rick Joyner boldly establishes truth claims that should profoundly concern any discerning Christian. He teaches here that personal spiritual perception of "the Lord's voice" is the highest standard for truth, since the Bible, he says, was actually intended by God to be understood in a "subjective" manner. Subjectivity is simply interpretation of something as based on one's personal opinions or feelings rather than on previously established fact or evidence. In other words, what one feels is right becomes the established reality even if proof to the contrary shows that it is actually wrong. A standard for established truth can then mean nothing at all: two plus two, in Joyner's perspective, could mean four, but can also potentially add up to five if "revelation knowledge" says so, or if a more "fresh word" for the hour so directs.

These are not minority opinions written by some flakes on the fringe: these are bold and unapologetic assertions by two of the most influential fivefold ministry leaders alive today. Such flagrant violation of the objective standards of God's Word is a lamentably common error in Christendom today: the "revelation knowledge" teaching has circulated in one form or another for years and contributed to many false teachings supposedly inspired by "divine" insight supplied by self-anointed "Bible" teachers. An unnamed ministry's newsletter, cited in a book written by fivefold teacher Rick Renner in the 1980's, shows us just where this dysfunctional direction leads:

In the next move of God, we won't need the Bible. We will move beyond the Bible. We've had all the Word we need. Now we're moving beyond - into the realms of the Spirit. .. We're so taught we don't even know what to do with it, so it's time to leave teaching and move out into the dimension of the Spirit." (30)

The gray-haired leader of the fivefold ministry meeting at the Holiday Inn I spoke of was locked into this same errant mindset: after an hour of high energy worship, prophesying over members of his flock and altar prayer, he launched into a rambling sermon quoting verses of his own revelations he'd recorded in a ragged notebook. His doctrine was focused around assuring the flock that he and they were at the center of God's divine purposes for Cleveland, Tennessee by being a part of his ministry. His declarations were filled with florid, impressive language that he said were the voice of the Spirit. And he never opened up the pages of a Bible at all, which did not bode well - I thought - for their direction as we would later tragically learn.

Biblical absolutes firmly based on objective truth established in chapter and verse become fair game for any fivefold minister with a subjective truth claim that is more "relevant" to the moment. The unnamed ministries respectively observed by Renner and myself count themselves so divinely enlightened that they abandoned the Bible for "the dimension of the Spirit," in complete assurance that they no longer needed Scripture for guidance. They are also a brazen example of how imbalanced a "cutting edge" ministry can easily get. To lay aside the God ordained boundaries of truth that Scripture has firmly established to embrace the authority of one's own personal self-affirming "words from God" is the most dangerous spiritual error one can make. Such a sincere conviction always becomes a trap door that drops the fivefold minister and his flock into doctrinal and practical errors that divide, abuse and spiritually devastate who embrace a purely "Spirit-led" approach. And this is an operative reality in far too many fivefold circles today.

Misstep # 2 -  Scriptures Twisted To Support Unquestioned Obedience - Imbalanced fivefold ministries producing and living by "revelation" they produce are one thing, but those ministries using the Bible can and still do stumble down the slippery slope into fivefold extremism. This is seen when they use select verses in the Bible as proof texts they quote out of the Biblical context to teach that the authority of the fivefold minister is above question. This twisting of certain Scripture verses occurs in fivefold church and social settings just enough to indoctrinate their members into believing that obedience and submission to fivefold authority is a divine mandate, not an option.

It quickly establishes among fivefold-oriented congregations that the apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist or teacher are in charge because the Bible says so and that anyone struggling with or voicing dissent or disagreement with them are living "in the flesh" and that a root of sinful rebellion motivates them.  Who wants to argue with what the Bible says about these things? Such a supposedly Biblical argument ends discussion and establishes authority in the fivefold circle as held firmly by the fivefold minister.


The four Biblical verses below are the primary texts pressed into service by the flocks of the fivefold ministers to justify their belief that they have a divine calling and authority that should be readily submitted to and followed:


Psalm 105:15 & 1 Samuel 26:9  - Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm. .. And David said to Abishai, Destroy him not: for who can stretch forth his hand against the LORD's anointed, and be guiltless?


Romans 13:1-2 - Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.


Hebrews 13:17 - Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

The reasoning drawn from these verses is that the "anointed," that is, any fivefold minister walking in his or her divine calling, are not to be "touched" or "resisted" since they are the "higher powers" ordained of God whom all are to "be subject unto". They are to be obeyed and submitted to since their direction is aimed at "watching" after the spiritual welfare of those they are to watch over. "Resistence" is a sin that brings grief to the fivefold minister and can lead to damnation. So the fivefold have an absolute authority inherent in their position which is to be respected without question; they would insist this "hard saying" is just what these Bible verses teach. This authority becomes a spiritual "covering" that, fivefold ministers assert, is a divine shield created by God as a shelter and refuge against spiritual assault and error.


Although there have been many scattered and unseen instances throughout the years of church history in which this kind of authoritarian leadership has emerged, it was in the early 1970's that there emerged a popular church movement that was formally based upon it. In response to a perceived need for bringing order and structure to the then emerging Charismatic movement, a group of five Christian leaders formed an organization in Florida called Christian Growth Ministries that enjoyed a fleeting decade or so of enormous popularity and influence. It was referred to as the "submission" or "shepherding" movement since it emphasized small group ministry governed by a "shepherd" whose authority was viewed as a divine visitation of God's grace when it demanded and expected full submission of those to their "shepherds."


Bob Mumford, a former Bible college professor and one of the "Fort Lauderdale Five" as CGM's leaders would come to be called, in quoting Romans 13:1-5 boldly framed the issue in a stark black or white perspective: one either is in submission to authority or one is not, and those who are not are painted as spiritually blinded rebels who bring God's judgment on their own heads (31). He used what he called "Mumford's translation" several times in the book doing his own paraphrases of various passages that boldly offered twisted versions of them (32) to further reinforce his perspective:


Now if you can catch in this one statement, made by Jesus, the same truth that dawned on me, your entire spiritual perspective can be revolutionized. "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39). What I saw altered many relationships in my life. Jesus is telling us that He and His servants are so inextricably intertwined that they cannot be separated. Until I can learn to say, "Blessed is he who comes to me in the name of the Lord", I will never really understand what the Lord is doing in the earth. I must learn to submit to those who have authority over me.  .. You can never bring in God's kingdom by rebellion. Your "higher power" may not be "doing it right", according to your standards; but your responsibility then is to take him or her before the Lord and ask Him to deal in the matter. There is not a thing you can do in the matter. (33)


But even Mumford seemed dimly aware of where this teaching would lead:


We must admit that once some of us taste the power of having authority over others, basic conflicts can arise. .. We can use this same technique not only to brandish a club over those in submission to us, but also, to worm our way out of submitting to someone. It is easy to say, "God told me ." when we want to go or get our own way.(34)


Mumford's prophesy has been fulfilled again and again: barely two Charismatic church generations later, this teaching still is as prevalent as ever, given recirculation by the fivefold culture itself and amplified through the teaching of well known figures like fivefold teacher John Bevere. His book Under Cover, published in 2001, is a full-length reiteration of the same kind of submission teaching that Mumford first presented almost 30 years earlier. Bevere presents personal experiences to reinforces his questionable interpretation of these and other verse concerning submission, including a bit of divinely inspired revelation from God Himself:


If we want to remain obedient to God and blessed, we have but one choice when it comes to delegated authority - submission and obedience. .. There's an amazing principle to glean from this: when God places His authority on a person, no matter his private or personal behavior, we may still receive if we look beyond it and honor him as sent from God. Jesus made it clear that many will receive from corrupt ministers, as Hannah did (Quotes Matthew 7:22-23). .. God did not limit our submission to authorities to the times when we see their wisdom, agree with them, or like what they tell us. He just said, "Obey!" Later, the Lord spoke to my heart, "John, if I intended for every believer to get all his information, wisdom, and direction only from prayer and communion with Me, then I'd never have instituted authority in the church. I placed authorities in the church with the full intent that My children could not get all they needed just from their prayer life. They would have to learn to recognize and hear My voice through their leaders as well" (emphasis author's). (35)


With God weighing in on the discussion, who could disagree? Bevere goes on to delineate, as Mumford did, how following unjust church leadership with absolute acceptance is actually a spiritual discipline He ordained to create Christian character:


You may now wonder, "What good does suffering harsh treatment from leaders accomplish? .. the wisdom of God molds a submitted heart through this kind of treatment in three ways. First, it makes room for God's righteous judgment. Second, it develops in us the character of Christ. Third, our submission under this treatment glorifies God. .. Defense, correction, vindication, or other appropriate responses should proceed from the hand of God, not man. An individual who vindicates himself lacks the humility of Christ (emphasis author's) (36).


Neither Bevere or Mumford's teachings on this subject are original - these questionable interpretations of Scripture have been circulating in the church for a long time before either of them began their ministries. To his credit, Mumford publicly repented of his part in the discipleship movement, while Bevere, plainly confessing his ignorance of its past, barely recognized the issue (see page 197 of Bevere's book Under Cover to see how unbelievably uninformed he reveals himself to be). However, with their respective convictions supposedly reinforced by the voice of God himself, the die of deception is therefore cast. With the authority of Scripture undercut by questionable Biblical interpretation as well as fivefold "revelation knowledge" - purely subjective personal feelings divined only through the mediation of the “anointed” five fold ministry - the voice of man now becomes the voice of God, the source for what they would call “present truth.”  When the voice of man, however, becomes heeded as a “word from the Lord” the echo that rings throughout the church inevitably results in an unimaginably twisted form of imbalance in the Christian church.

Misstep # 3 -  Unquestionable Fivefold Authority - With the position established that God ordains the authority, judgment and leadership of the fivefold minister, their authority is then rendered beyond any review, dialogue and challenge. Trusting that they walk in a divine integrity their fivefold "anointing" imparts to them, the disciples of fivefold ministers offer a complete deference to their authority that is difficult to over emphasize. Any dissent can be seen as compromise, any attempt at dialogue a challenge of God's very sovereignty. This has helped create and perpetuate a mystique of infallibility that is cloaked about the shoulders of fivefold ministers.

However, this divine office of authority seems inexplicably very quickly offended: note the defensive tone of fivefold prophet Bill Hamon when speaking of this in one of his most popular books:

God is very sensitive about His prophets. To touch one of His prophets is to touch the apple of his eye. To reject God's prophets is to reject God. To fail to recognize the prophets, or to keep them from speaking, is to refuse God permision to speak." (emphasis author) (37).

As shrill as this may sound, it is however understandable when one considers the logical outcome of Hamon's belief about the fivefold ministry's authority. It must not be questioned since the fivefold minister is supposedly set apart to speak for God, so any interference with such a divine flow of revelation is viewed as an affront against God Himself. Prophets (and by default all fivefold ministers) who speak for God are to recognized, listened to, accepted and never second-guessed, and any members of the fivefold congregation who do so, Hamon asserts, are those who "touch God's anointed" and incur his wrath. Fivefold minister Jon Arno, in a prophetic utterance recorded online that supposedly is a word from the Lord Himself, brooks no "opposition" to the fivefold ministry's authority:

Be careful again I say. Do not be found out as speaking against the Lord’s anointed  as there is no more room in the cup. Teach those around you to be slow to speak, quick to listen. Judge everything by the word of God. If you are not sure, don't say anything. For God takes the foolish things of this world to confound the wise. (38)

Say nothing, the God of Arno's oracle commands, against the "anointed" - indeed, "He" says that we must avoid the temptation to speak and simply to listen and accept their lead. And if there is any uncertainty in your deliberation of what you hear from Apostle X or Pastor Y, say nothing - express no opinion whatsoever - and avoid divine judgment. This is supposedly inspired by the same "God" that told the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5 to not only "quench not the Spirit" but to "prove all things" and to "hold fast to that which is good."  Arno's God demands silence from any dissent of believers and expects their total obedience to the fivefold ministers He is supposed to have sent into their lives, no matter how peculiar, unorthodox, questionable or flat out weird they or their methods might be. 

Such a position raises a critical point that must be emphasized strongly: if you deny the means to question, you also deny the means to THINK and to DISCERN truth from error. With distrust of one's own ability to question firmly implanted alongside the mandate to completely trust another person's ability to sit in judgment over you and your life, reason becomes selectively anesthetized. The ability to reason and exercise freedom of conscience when it comes to spiritual matters that directly impact one's personal lifestyle is then made subject to the dictates of others.  Determining whether a claim is right or wrong is therefore intentionally shut down for the sake of the fivefold authority to be exercised.

And when this happens, as it already has in fivefold congregations all across the U.S. and the world, there is then nothing - absolutely nothing - to prevent the complete control of the behavior of Christians since their thought is effectively being controlled by their fivefold leaders. No other social safeguards or balances are possible at this point that would ensure the stability of any spiritual fellowship's social circles. Sadly, there's another term for this kind of powerful dynamic - it's called mind control. And mind control is the lingua franca, the common language and universal characteristic of manipulative and dangerous cultic groups. The parallels between cults and abusive fivefold ministries are too clear at this point to ignore.

Tragically, this has become a mundane and daily reality shadowing the lives of far too many Christians who were supposedly delivered from their own spiritual bondages of our fallen world. That these kind of purely human forms of cunning manipulation are cited as originating from divine design are troubling enough. But to understand that there are generations of Christian people who have meekly submitted to this kind of control out of fear of displeasing God when it is the whims of man they are actually bowing to is perhaps the ultimate indignity for the human spirit as it seeks to love and serve God and ends up in the fear of man.

And it doesn't stop here, unfortunately - it gets much worse.

Misstep # 4 - Unbiblical Magnification Of Certain Fivefold Offices - Another tumble down the slope is the conviction that certain fivefold offices are invested with more positional authority than other ones - specifically that of apostles and prophets. We must remember that in Pentecostal and Charismatic circles there is a growing consensus that believes that these two "offices" were fully restored in the 1980's and the 1990's. Under this scenario, this would complete a work of restoration of spiritual authority believed lost since the days of the early church - according to the fivefold culture who would assert this kind of positional power. With all of the fivefold offices "restored" to the Christian church in the kind of functional union they are supposed to enjoy, the maturing of the Body of Christ should then proceed.

However, despite the popular and heartwarming belief that a fraternal equality exists among them, the reality is that certain fivefold clergy are viewed as more equal than others in their tribe - namely apostles and prophets. They are actually granted a functional preeminence in fivefold circles following certain interpretations of the New Testament proof texts concerning fivefold ministry (such as Ephesians 2:20) that are supposed to prove this. Apostles and prophets are typically viewed as having a unique and special ability to discern the voice and direction of God that other fivefold ministers, such as the evangelist, pastor and teacher, do not have and which the fivefold laity most assuredly do not enjoy. Fivefold pastor/prophet Jim Wies underscores this emphasis once again:

It is important to acknowledge .. the unique relationship and placement of the apostle and prophet. The church is described as being "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets" together as the foundation (see Eph. 2:20). A church without both foundational influences will never be all that God intended it to be. .. When apostles and prophets find the grace to be fitted and joined together and work together for the common good of His Kingdom, the building can move forward and be finished. God’s plan is to have a fully functioning apostolic/prophetic church in order to execute an unprecedented harvest at the end of the age .. and we’re it! (first emphasis mine, second one author's) (39)

Apostles and prophets, it now seems, are the key figures in the "restoration" of the church to facilitate the winning of souls to Christ as well as leading them in proper discipling as well. The shining goal of evangelistic harvest notwithstanding, however, questions come to mind: what does Ephesians 4:11-14 then mean since there is absolutely no hint of this kind of exaltation of their authority in this verse? What justification is there to automatically assume that Ephesians 2:20's reference to apostles and prophets elevates these "offices" to a higher plane of spiritual authority? And what happened in the 1980's and 1990's that led so many fivefold ministers to suddenly realize that the ultimate purpose of God for the perfection of the church now depends upon their recognition of the supremacy of the authority of apostles and prophets?

One can concede that multitudes of fivefold ministers, reading one another's books and sharing at one another's tables of fellowship, sincerely perceived these developments as part of an overall divine plan that was unfolding as God ordained. However, the evidence at hand from that time - the records we can see, hear and read of faith-building histories, anecdotal testimony and the entrepreneurial character of fivefold ministry networking carried on in those days - suggest far less divine dynamics at work. What seemed like the Spirit's "anointing" being exercised in the church by the "new wave" (40) was actually little more than self-aggrandizement focused on consolidating power and control, along with all the perks that came with it like financial gain and social status. Figures claiming prophetic and apostolic authority across the Body of Christ during this season of transition within "full-gospel" churches effortlessly undercut any local church pastoral leadership simply by prefacing their dictates by a "thus saith the Lord" - and readily getting their way, no matter how off base it might be. This continues largely unabated today.

So this sudden clamor for apostolic and prophetic presence among the Charismatic and Pentecostal world then seems less a sign of divine restoration and more of an all too familiar human ambition. And these questions don't seem to come to mind to influential fivefold pastors like David Cannistraci whose passionate plea for rallying around apostolic ministry for pacesetting leadership have an all too familiar ring of an underlying agenda that he seems completely blind to:

In some ways, we are beginning to see the desired unity take root, but the Body of Christ is still largely fragmented. Restoration of the ministry of apostles is intrinsic to church unity. Apostles, along with the other ministry gifts, were given by Christ to edify the Church and to bring it to the unity of the faith .. If the office of the apostle is not restored, how can we hope for unity? The apostle is part of the fivefold cord God has created to tie the Body of Christ together in unity. George R. Hawtin (sp), a Canadian teacher active in the 1940's and '50's, wrote ‘There shall never be any unity of the faith until the ministry of the true apostle is recognized and obeyed as strictly in the last days as it was obeyed in the days of the apostle Paul.' He went on to note, 'Any attempts to pray, organize, reconcile or repent will be inadequate to produce church unity unless the apostles emerge, for apostolic ministry is the very essence of unity.’ In this context, then, the apostolic ministry is an indispensable part of God’s end-time purpose in the Church. (emphasis author's) (41)

George Hawtin, the "Canadian teacher" Cannistraci quoted here, was one of the original group of men who ignited the Latter Rain revival movement in North Battleford, Saskatchewan. It wasn't long after the beginning of the revival that it began to spread across the Pacific Northwest and into the Plains of the United States from 1948 to 1952. And upon finding their judgment being bypassed and unrecognized by "opportunists", Hawtin began to compel submission of all to the authority of their "ministries" to ensure true understanding of the revival (42):

We request, therefore, that you enquire directly of us as to whether or not certain men are recognized by us. Even in the days of Paul certain people claimed to be of the company of the apostles and showed forged letters to that effect, but they were not genuinely of the apostolic company (2 Thess. 2:2).

From this seemingly mild directive, the North Battleford leadership can be seen extending one of many attempts to exert a firm authority over a network of apostles and prophets that they personally authorized to keep firm control over their activities and doings. Such heavy-handed leadership - originating from fearful human nature ever anxious for control and manipulation to its ends - has been replicated successfully through the fivefold culture ever since. Hawtin was not the first such errant leader and has not been the last, either. The "divine pattern" quickly became confused with a purely human model of domineering manipulation.

This is the dark side of the fivefold ministry "restoration" no one wants to talk about, but hundreds of thousands have lamentably felt it's darker presence in their own lives. Pastoral ministry by elders, deacons and other fivefold ministries has been subject and even overridden by the rule of the apostle and prophet. So with the fivefold ministry fully dominated by the claimed supremacy of apostles and prophets, the average fivefold church member is to immediately submit to it - whether legitimate or not.

Misstep # 5 - Feigned Signs And Wonders That Mislead & Confuse - With the Bible effectively reduced to proof texts that portray fivefold ministers as heroic visionaries and warriors endued with unquestionable spiritual authority that will take the church to the "next level," there remains only one final serious slip down the slope into fivefold ministry extremism. This is when the fivefold minister undertakes an intentional staging of supernatural powers, supposed signs and wonders that compellingly authenticate their positions of divine authority. These pretensive displays of the miraculous and the unexplained are perhaps the greatest form of persuasive leverage that fivefold ministers can apply to the hearts and minds of their flocks as they seek their obedience and submission.

In too many Pentecostal and Charismatic circles, the demonstration of spiritual power - whether in a spiritual gift of tongues or the deliverance of the demonically-possessed - is viewed as a true test of their authenticity. Fivefold pastor and teacher Bob Yandian underscores this tradition when he writes:

Every time you move in the ministry, you never go down, you are always promoted for your faithfulness. When you prove yourself in one office, God promotes you to another. I began as a Sunday School teacher, but I didn't stand in the office of a teacher. When God moves you into a ministry office, He accompanies it with spiritual gifts. Supernatural signs accompany ministry office. .. You remember that the Jews didn't like Titus because he was an uncircumcised Gentile, a Greek (Gal. 2:1-4). But the ministry gift of God was in him, and the signs and wonders worked through him. This was God's seal of approval. Religious people have a hard time coming against the supernatural. (43, emphasis mine).

One of the most lamentable traditions of Pentecostal and Charismatic church history is its steadfast tendency to make religious experience the test of truth instead of the precepts of Scripture. A miraculous sign, prophecy, healing or discerning is among such experiential faith. And fivefold ministers, being products of this culture are fully aware of this and set their pace accordingly, proclaiming that they "walk in the supernatural" in their ad print, web site banners and in their general personal self-representation. Their view of the sovereignty of God in regards to the exercise of spiritual power is one of continual access and openness to the miraculous in all walks of life, hence the level of expectancy in their church circles for seeing a "move of God" take place at their hand is an unspoken and yet continual spiritual constant which they are exquisitely sensitive to.

Those fivefold ministers laboring under the slippery slope into extremism we've been discussing are all too ready to help God out in the display of feigned signs and wonders meant to irrefutably convince all that they wield authority that should never be confronted or challenged. In their rush to displaying the supernatural, their works are all too often not only confusing and disturbing but openly manipulative and abusive. We shall review a few of these here through video clips you can stream and watch for yourself.  (Click on each pic below to view)

Fivefold prophet Kim Clement's itinerant ministry consists of high-energy worship and altar services in which he delivers "prophetic words" from God that discern specific details about the needs of the person coming for personal ministry. As other fivefold figures do when they supposedly exercise the spiritual gifts of the word of knowledge and discerning of spirits, Clement identifies these needs and then sets forth a word from the Lord that will supply divine perspective as well as direction on how He will address them. Click this link to watch an incident that was taped and aired over the Trinity Broadcast Network. Listen closely and note carefully the body language of the young woman who presented herself to Clement for his "prophetic" ministry as he called these details out. She certainly was not in total agreement to everything Clement prophesied over her - even shaking her head in disagreement with them (this can be seen by watching the video). Others like her in other settings, called out by fivefold ministers who have "a sure word" (from Benny Hinn to Peter Popoff and W.V. Grant Jr) know better than to so publicly doubt and usually simply go along with their rambling. This moment of innocent candor, beamed all over the world by TBN's cameras, speaks volumes about the nature of Clement's inspiration. To fulfill his stated goal, he had to keep "prophesying", or more accurately guessing to fish for information that fit an oracular tale that he was telling.  In short, his attempts to glean and then characterize this woman's personal information are no better then the kind of "cold-reading" that psychics and mediums employ - and no more accurate or "supernatural". One wonders what the state of this woman's faith might be today, let alone what she was left to think about her teenage son, after Clement's failure to "read her mail."

During a conference held in 2000 at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado under the auspices of C Peter Wagner's Global Harvest Ministries, a group of fivefold ministers were assembled to offer a similar form of personal ministry to a conference attendee in a team ministry format. This encounter was set up to "activate" or "impart" spiritual giftings and direction under the leadership of fivefold prophet Mary Crum from an Atlanta-area church affiliated with Bill Hamon's Christian International ministry. It was done with the dual purpose of personal edification for the attendee as well as a practical demonstration of how this kind of "impartation" could proceed in a team setting. However Biblically questionable this practice might be made no difference to the group. Their ministration proceeded with Crum snatching a microphone being spoken into by one fivefold minister in mid-sentence as they prophesied and immediately handed to another prophet next to them to continue uninterruptedly. Hundreds of people beheld Crum do this in a circle of about five ministers at whim. This wholesale exercise of confusion is cited as proceeding from a "prophetic flow" of the Spirit meant to edify with prophetic guidance. It is clear that Crum and her team were trying to impress upon their observant audience how divinely inspired they were to demonstrate such oracular art. Instead, it was a grotesque tag team effort to extemporaneously string together cryptic exhortations couched in every popular fivefold cultural buzzword. Anyone familiar with fivefold culture would be able to interpret and apply this generic "oracle" to their own personal situation.

In the most disturbing video clip we now offer you, created from a videotape of a baptismal service held at an independent Oneness Pentecostal church in Benton, Tennessee in 1996, we will see a tragic example of manipulation done in the name of God. Oneness Pentecostal doctrine teaches that the full extent of personal salvation is only applied to the repentant when baptized in the name of Jesus only and is evident as they emerge from their baptismal waters speaking in tongues, signifying an actual inner baptism of the Holy Spirit. The church, calling itself the Church of Jesus Christ of Prophecy, led by its prophet-pastor John McCann, embraces this unbiblical view of baptism the same way many other Oneness Pentecostal and Apostolic Pentecostal churches do. Previously, McCann had been exhorting an unbaptized husband of one of his members to "get in all the way", identifying himself as "your papaw" who would never lead him astray. When several baptisms passed after this and the man still hadn't come forward, it was then that McCann's "anointing" led him to speak in the name of God and warn his congregation of imminent divine wrath that would fall upon those who held back from baptism.

One can hear McCann unmistakably issue this threat in no uncertain terms. In effect, the so-called "Preacherman" screeches from his sound system "Thus saith the Lord! Be baptized now or a death angel will slay you as you drive home and you'll die a lost soul!"  A few seconds later the man who was the subject of McCann's earlier entreaty shakily came forward with an expression of contrite horror and was then baptized. McCann, claiming to speak for God, essentially demanded of his audience immediate compliance - or a possible fatal accident which could lead them to eternal death and separation from God since, after all, they'd not been properly baptized! This was nothing less than religious terrorism at its lowest form, done in a rustic country church setting at the hands of a seemingly simple old country preacher who knew exactly what he was doing (44).

We consider these three documented incidents to be spiritually abusive acts of unscrupulous fivefold ministers who chose to make "results" their justification for their brazen control of the flocks of God they were supposed to serve and not shear. These three blatant human manipulations of supposedly divine visitations of God's grace are simply the most visible form of feigned signs and wonders that we can show you in recorded form out of our archives. There are countless other equally coercive, damaging and abusive acts we are personally aware of suffered by fivefold church members which cameras will never be able to record - testimonies involving child abuse, harrowing sexual seductions, financial extortions through compulsory "love offerings", verbal assault, and the division of families from each other.  

Somewhere Under The Jackboot: Five Fold Spiritual Abuse

Sadly, the ultimate harvest reaped from the sown excesses we’ve looked at in the context of aberrant five fold ministry is spiritual trauma that pierces the soul, shatters the soul and controls the mind. In short, it is spiritual abuse inflicted by fivefold ministers, a social disease that has too long sickened the Body of Christ like an insidious cancer. It is the shameless abuse of the power and authority that fivefold ministers so freely wield that has become an all too familiar reality for one too many Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians.

And it is from this kind of absolute and corrupt authority that spiritual abuse has proceeded and infected multitudes with, poisoning their spirituality and strangling their conscience under control-oriented and authoritarian leadership. These abuses of power take place along a two-dimensional paradigm that illustrates the dynamics of abuse as inflicted by abusive fivefold ministers. The first dimension is the warped word, the act of establishing a purely human agenda that exploits the trust of followers under the guise of "divine direction" - usually by Scripture-twisting, prophetic utterance, dream and omen interpretation. The second dimension involved the establishment of a controlling covering, the creation of a domineering and unwholesome spiritual headship that supposedly "disciples" yet is a mobilization of private and/or group domination that actually coaches Christian believers on how to live and think according to the warped word.

We've already laid out many specific examples of how this abuse manifests itself in fivefold ministry circles. We want to bring our documentation of this further definition by shedding some light on two of the more well known examples of spiritually abusive fivefold ministry that have lamentably emerged in the past few years. These are by no means the only ones for the damage paths ripped by the raging twisters of fivefold abuse extend all across our land. As we have said, the variety and extent of abuse varies from situation to situation as surely as these two do, but they give great insight into just how widespread the problem is.

The Shepherding Debacle - A Charismatic teaching team of five men were incorporated as Christian Growth Ministries (CGM) in the late 1960's.  Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, the "Florida Five" were Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter, Don Basham and Bob Mumford. From the start, Catholic Charismatic renewal leadership (including leading figures like Keven Ranaghan, Larry Tomczak, Stephen Clark and Ralph Martin) were deeply involved and helped promote the CGM's guidance among their own faith communities. They organized national convocations that led thousands of Charismatic leaders and believers to adopt their teachings, which were all based on the foundational truth they called "discipleship": "sheep" should be fully submitted to the direct leadership provided by "shepherds" who would provide direct accountability and admonition to them, views long advocated by Mumford, Prince and Simpson. 

This authority was a spiritual "covering" needed by the disciple for spiritual security and guidance in their Christian life and absolute submission to the "shepherd" was required, no matter how questionable or errant the direction was. This dubious foundational belief system was first set forth systematically in a 1973 CGM conference in Leesburg, Florida and further amplified at a CGM men's gathering in Montreat, North Carolina in 1974. Fivefold pastor Bill Ligon in his book Discipleship: The Jesus Way (Logos, 1979) recalls that:

One shepherdship teacher stated in an article in 1974 that since the purpose of a true disciple was to carry out the will of Jesus Christ, "his own will must be broken." To do this, the teacher proposed that the disciple learn to obey his leader as a slave, not "knowing the 'why' of it." Then, he said, the day of recognition would come when his leader would tell him "Now you are ready." A true disciple, he said, could not be promoted or minister beyond "the recognition of his leader." (p. 221)

The startlingly authoritarian undertone of this teaching appears to have been largely lost on the Florida Five, the Catholic Charismatic renewal leadership and hundreds of thousands of Charismatic and Pentecostal church leaders and members who, throughout the 1970's, accepted CGM's lead as timely revelation from God. Coming to be known as "shepherding", "submission" or "discipleship" in various quarters, it wasn't long, however, before the discipleship system began to crumble under its own weight. Multitudes of "shepherds," many of them young and immature believers assaying to be pastoral figures began to abuse their positions of authority and began to dominate and manipulate the disciples who had readily submitted to their authority. Likening themselves as infallible voices of God and being readily submitted to as having that level of divine authority, many troubling abuses of power began to occur. 

Horror stories involving "shepherds" who micromanaged the lives of disciplers down to who they were to marry, how they spent their money and who to tithe to (in many instances, the "shepherd" readily received these tithes unto themselves) began to abound. Submission to shepherds became a test of fellowship and even of salvation itself in certain circles, leaving hundreds if not thousands of Christians completely wide open to the arbitrary whims and "direction" of their shepherds. Mumford's popular couplet that "every sheep needs to find his shepherd" was a dictum embraced widely on many fronts, even to the extent that denominational church pastors sought out shepherding relationships to shepherds who may or may not have had any connection with their specific movement (p. 90). So as the pulpit went, in a reversal of the old saying, the pews also went. Submission was the buzzword and many quarters of the Charismatic movement eagerly embraced it. Click here to read a book review filled with reminiscences of those who lived in the heady days of the shepherding era of the 1970's.

It is difficult to underestimate how profoundly formative this was, for good and for bad, in the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds at the time. The dimensions of interdenominational fellowship were certainly appealing and refreshing but it became painfully apparent that the basis upon which this was being established had less to do with the Lordship of Christ and more upon a rigid pyramid of hierarchal control that was being too often illegitimately exploited for the gain of unscrupulous shepherds who saw a golden opportunity to gratify their lust for power and authority over other people's lives. Many Christian leaders like Demos Shakarian, Kathryn Kuhlman, Chuck Smith, Ralph Mahoney and even Pat Robertson began to publicly question and rebuke the CGM-led movement. Click here to read a tract issued by Chuck Smith in response to this.  As if to underscore the ecumenism that CGM openly espoused which was showed that spiritual abuse was no respecter of persons, reports of spiritual abuse began to emerge in some Roman Catholic renewal communities that replicated those found in Protestant circles where the shepherding and discipleship emphases as advanced by the CGM-dominated movement had introduced them. By the early 1980's, CGM's draw had long passed, the great convocations ending, and the "Florida Five" began to "release" their disciples and disconnected from one another. But the damage had already been done - the social machinery for replication and delivery of spiritually abusive church settings had been engineered and well-oiled and the guidelines for their organization and execution had been spread all throughout the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds. A fearful foundation was laid which has fouled the springs of the "living water" supposedly flowing like a river among churches all around the world, from megachurches to home cell churches. 

To this day, the warped template of shepherding excesses continue to hold in thrall untold thousands, possibly millions of people. Click here to read the statement of one Evangelical organization, the Great Commission Association of Churches (GACC) (once known as Great Commission International or GCI) when it was forced by widespread outcry of other Evangelical leaders in the 1980's to confront its own history of controlling manipulation. Another well known organization was Pentecostal minister Bob Weiner's college-focused Maranatha Campus Ministries (MCM). Similar reports of manipulative abuse of Christian college students would fan flames of controversy that would eventually result in the dissolution of MCM by 1989. Several of the churches and ministers "released" from MCM's authority would go on to form a new organization calling itself Morning Star International (MSI), Charismatic in orientation, under the leadership of former Maranatha pastors Rice Broocks, Phil Bonasso and Steve Murrell. While obscured by an explosion of various ministries, churches and associations all associated with each other on various levels, the essential MCM / MSI cultural connection that advocated forms of authoritarian shepherding control was never practically repudiated. In fact, many testimonials now exist of MSI leader-orchestrated spiritual elitism and manipulation that are chillingly similar to the abuses suffered by CGM followers in the 1970's. Even though MSI renamed itself Every Nation in 2004 and made vague efforts to distance itself from its own excesses with an appropriated contrite tone, the movement remains controversial. Click here to read the accounts of a former MCM evangelist who saw this first hand. It is important to realize that while GCI was not an explicitly Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, both MCM and MSI were and in recent years, have also come to identify their leaders as prophetic and apostolic figures who have their own claims to authority as fivefold ministry leaders and have come to be recognized as such by more "mainstream" fivefold figures.

The Maelstrom of Chapel Hill - From humble beginnings in a small country pastorate in the 1950's the ministry of Bishop Earl Pearly Paulk ascended into national prominence. Paulk's restorationist vision was to create a dynamic new Christian ministry in Atlanta that would thrust the Kingdom of God across the nation and around the world, heralding the rule of Christ over all things with the church as his vice regency being led by an anointed episcopacy committed to fivefold ministry leadership. In 1960, he founded the Gospel Harvester Tabernacle which would enjoy phenomenal growth; his brother Don Paulk would serve with him to help guide the church, along with a pastoral staff of family members and close associates, such as Lynn Mays and Duane Swilley. They would incorporate insights and ministry models popularized during the 1960's through the 1980's in the larger Charismatic and Pentecostal cultures that further accelerated their church growth. These ranged from Latter Rain to "shepherding" concepts adopted as seen fit by CHHC leadership. Gospel Harvester would eventually morph into the Chapel Hill Harvester Church (CHHC) by the early 1990's, a 12,000 member megachurch noted for it's high-church trappings and liturgy as much as its social ministry outreaches and vibrant worship services where people of all races and walks of life were warmly welcomed and integrated into the "body life" of the church. Three U.S. presidents commended CHHC's community work. With his influence and teaching preceding him, Paulk would go on to be consecrated as an archbishop of the International Communion of Charismatic Churches, a coalition that offered spiritual "covering" and mentoring to thousands of charismatic church ministries around the world. And the Charismatic and Pentecostal worlds regarded CHHC as a shining example of progressive Spirit-filled ministry, making his TBN broadcast of church services a regular part of their viewing life and freely imbibing his "Kingdom Now" doctrine.

However, says the well-worn cliché, not all that glitters is gold. Barely a year or so after occupying their new neo-Gothic sanctuary in 1992, the first of several public scandals surfaced that rocked CHHC. In May, two months after President George Bush commended Earl Paulk's ministry as being a "point of light" in the Atlanta Metro area for their social outreaches, Don Paulk confessed to an adulterous affair and was "restored" back to ministry four weeks later by his brother (no doubt encouraged by the "divine oracle" of Nigerian bishop and Paulk cohort Benson Idahosa asserting that God wanted him back in the pulpit)(45). Later that fall, six women members of CHHC publicly went forth and accused Paulk, his brother and their two nephews, who were all on staff at CHHC of having engaged them in sexual liaisons by intentionally exploiting their clergy-laity relationships to coerce them into submitting to their advances. They were able to do this, charged the women, when the ministers advanced a secret CHHC doctrine concerning "kingdom relationships." These precepts concerned deep interpersonal and marital relations that transcended conventional morality on the basis of a "higher" spiritual knowledge about Christian charity. Prevailed upon by their spiritual authorities to keep a pliable and open mind to this teaching, reserved only for the "mature" elite to receive, the women would submit sexually, believing this to be a sacramental act they were chosen by God to perform, ministering to him by "serving" the "man of God." 

Click here to watch the testimony of a former CHHC pastoral staff member discuss how widespread this was in the CHHC culture.

Paulk had been accused of such improprieties in the past and had been able to dismiss them as slanderous gossip in the past, but the pattern of Paulk's lustful duplicity had been established at the outset of his Gospel Harvester days was no longer be concealable nor deniable. Originally a well-known Church of God (Cleveland TN) minister, his promising future came crashing down in 1960 when he was found in fragrante delicto with the wife of a policeman in a seedy hotel in South Cleveland, Tennessee. Defrocked by his own father, Earl Paulk Sr., who was the general overseer of the movement at the time, Paulk started Gospel Harvester the same year and made an abortive attempt to regain his Church of God credentials not long afterwards. Rebuffed by denominational leaders, Paulk would never admit to the affair, choosing to spin it as terrible misunderstanding inflamed by denominational ministerial jealousy in his biography and putting this unfortunate setback "under the blood."  With his history conveniently rewritten, Paulk was able to keep dazzling hundreds of new members for years. He and his inner circle would preach about righteousness all the while justifying their dark sides of sexual deviancy by twisted claims of fivefold authority and theological fantasy that governed how CHHC was run. He would never confess to his 1960 affair until 32 years later, during the 1992 fiasco, and only in the most general of terms.

It became clear as the 1990's wound down into the 21st century that the CHHC's leader's well-polished public image as an archbishop and powerful apostolic leader was a flimsy and threadbare cloak with a bright outer layer that dazzled those who didn't examine it too closely. The entire superstructure of CHHC's leadership when carefully examined was found to be completely without any real accountability, created to perpetuate the Paulks' almost absolute power over his church's members to an utterly astonishing degree (46). More revelations involving other spiritual seductions of other CHHC women during the 1980's came forth, as well as charges of actual child sexual abuse. The Paulks found themselves trying to hold up their church house of cards in the midst of a hurricane of media attention, censure and litigation. An exodus of CHHC members took place and only a few hundred hard core supporters gone, the CHHC trundles onward trying to justify it's continued existence under new leadership - and more liberal theology involving cooperative efforts with controversial figures like "Bishop" John Shelby Spong and Carlton Pearson.

So through the "good words and fair speeches" of its corrupted fivefold leadership who served their own carnal interests while spinning a deceptive religious web to ensnare the unwary with bright visions of restoration, the CHHC congregation was compromised and doomed from its very beginnings to its present ignoble state of ruination. When further emboldened by the self-aggrandizing influences of the Latter Rain and discipleship movements as well as an aggressive attempt to establish a Charismatic episcopacy of hierarchal church leadership, these same pretensive prophetic figures literally became religious demagogues in every sense of the word. Whatever sincerity and integrity they may have had was quickly undermined by their creation of inner circles, secret doctrines and a closed community that protected their prophets from being "touched" by anyone. In short, Earl Paulk and his tribe at CHHC grotesquely yet accurately fulfill the mug shot of fivefold spiritual abuse that the apostle Paul warned of in Romans 16:17.  

The Undiscovered Country: An Overview Of Fivefold Abuses We've Encountered

Other equally harrowing reports are those from the countless individuals who have called, visited or e-mailed us over the years whose solitary voices are cries of outrage, grief and pain over the abusive nature of the "ministry" they had at first so readily embraced. During one period from 1998-2001, we were receiving more reports and inquiries about abusive fivefold ministries from victims then we were from the victims of classical cultic movements like the Moonies, the Watchtower and the Mormon Church. There was the couple called out publicly by a fivefold pastor and rebuked as rebellious for leaving a prayer meeting too soon, the single mom persuaded by a fivefold pastor that God's will was for her to sexually service him, a young fivefold pastor's ministry destroyed when his wife left him to follow and then marry an extravagant fivefold apostle whose divisive influence isolated the fivefold pastor's attempt to deal with the sick influence of the "apostle," thus dividing and destroying his formerly fast growing Charismatic church. These are just some of the more memorable ones we personally are aware of.

There are countless other ones whose stories are still being told and worse of all, still being replicated in abusive fivefold ministries across the nation. Unfortunately, there will be no investigative journalism to tell their story and establish their presence as real people with a real story about real abuse. Dr. Phil and Oprah won't be pushing their cameras into their living rooms or passing Kleenix to them on their soundstages. But they are still flesh and blood human beings whose faith is still pitifully bleeding out invisibly as they try to make sense of a life where it has been all but mortally wounded.

We cannot forget the haunted families in Nashville whose loved ones who came under the spell of a fivefold pastor-prophet and his wife in a store front church there who readily gave up jobs and college education, drained bank accounts and offered thousands of dollars of support to finance a ministry tour the couple launched in a van journey back to California - dazzled by the "anointed" ministry of their prophetic words that convinced them their little flock would inaugurate the Next New Thing live on TBN (one fortyish single woman readily signed on when told by "the word of the Lord" that she was destined to marry the popular Christian singer Carman if she would just trust and obey the prophet). Sitting in a living room in 2001 that was full of frightened, numbed and terrified parents looking to you to explain why their loved one suddenly tore up roots to vanish into the West without a call or letter, all but begging you to pursue them across the nation to find them and bring them home is an experience not for the ministerially faint of heart. That ring of fearful, crushed faces gazing intently into my own will be something I will never forget. For all of its pathos, it was also a cautionary and sobering not to mention humbling demonstration of the power of deception that the abusive "fivefold" ministry can wield.

This Charismatic Christian woman's e-mail - sent to us with absolutely no solicitation whatsoever - is perhaps the most chilling and concise description of fivefold ministry abuse we've received yet. "Rosa" graciously allowed us to post it here in this article to illustrate just what lurks in the shadows of the "New Reformation" that so many fivefold luminaries and apologists commanding the hearts and minds of millions commend to us. And when reading this aloud in a recent conference workshop I did on this subject, you could feel a pall come over the room as attendees seemed to finally realize that this is a real issue with no easy answers, but a human face - some wept as it was shared:

I have been part of (a fivefold ministry) for four years on and off. I have tried to leave twice before, but they kept telling me that I was out of God's will for my life and if I wanted to be happy, I would repent of my rebellion and come back. Well, I finally left. In the group, we were not allowed to hang with people outside of the group. Also, if someone left the church, we were to completely cut them out of our life and not have anything to do them.

Every decision that we had in our lives the pastor and his wife would tell us what the right decision was because after all, "they were prophets." I never agreed with the isolating part but I went along with it. I never once experienced the true UNCONDITIONAL love of God. They showed me love when I was doing exactly what they told me to do. If I messed up in anyway, they were always getting upset with me. It was this way with the others of the group.

As I was reading your study, I recognized a lot of what was going on. I have lost a lot in leaving, including my husband because when I left (at the time my husband said that was fine just don't expect him to leave and I didn't) but when I left, the pastors told him to completely cut me out of his life and get a legal separation and be single the rest of his life. I have been called a danger to their ministry and am never allowed back even if I wanted to go back.

Rosa, by the purest grace of God, still walks with God but has gained at the most terrible of personal costs a perspective on how fallen men really are, especially the self-anointed fivefold ministers of God. She's sadly not alone. It is under their pretense of divine guidance and intervention that spiritual abuse is daily inflicted as their purely carnal human nature - self-sanctified as "the anointing" - unscrupulously controls and manipulates followers in the name of God.

This delivers a personal assault unlike anything else in the world. It is the Lordship of Christ that is usurped by those who want to lord over others with illegitimate authority whether motives are good or not. It is the perversion of the highest aspiration of the human spirit - faith in God and a longing to know Him and His will for one's life - by It is the quenching of the authority of the Word of God as illumined by the Spirit of God by the receiving of another spirit in dire need of testing(2 Cor. 11:4 and 1 John 4:1). The essence of cultism is the desire to lead or be led at the expense of Christ’s Lordship: leaders abuse an authority that isn’t theirs and followers offer “blind” trust without accountability - this is also at the heart of what spiritual abuse is.

Many within the Pentecostal and Charismatic cultures today are walking through the wilderness that these errors have created - a barren landscape of religious abuse, twisted Scriptures, fearful guilt, and shipwrecked faith. The cruelest side of this is how much of this is scrupulously hid from public view by the cunning campaigns of fivefold spin doctoring, glitzy self-promotion, personal qualification, plausible deniability and even outright legal action threatening litigation against any who dare to speak out against it. Many ministries today publicly lauded as the cutting-edge vanguard of end-time revival among the Charismatic and Pentecostal community around the world today are actually the most successful spin doctors in the church today, deftly sweeping their victims aside dismissively as backslidden, unspiritual and demonized tools of Satan. This is a Charismatic cultism, a Pentecostal pandemic of twisted faith as dangerous and destructive as anything we've ever seen.

We are certain that God knows who these vicious, hypocritical men and women are who cloak themselves in fivefold robes of righteousness and will judge them accordingly but until then, too many victims continue to suffer in their anonymous black holes of spiritual devastation. Any thought of a relationship with God or involvement with any form of church or Christian fellowship only stirs up painful memories of humiliation and abuse they'd rather not deal with. Others, weary of the chaotic personal aftermath of suffering the indignities they've seen, plunge into cynical amorality or frenzied church-hopping - hoping to numb or outrun their personal tragedy. Still others, sadly, end up in therapy for years or the graves of premature death by bitterness, sickness, fear or suicide.

I submit to you that this was never the intent of true Christian fivefold ministry. But that's the way it is: this is what is spilling out of churches across the nation with a silent pandemic of abuse hidden behind shiny pulpits, tongue-talking flocks, and magnetic prophets and apostles. And where are the true shepherds, the true fivefold ministers who dare to step into these deafening silences of wounding and outrage experienced by abused Christians? Where is the holy convocation of national Christian leadership that is arising to own up to and address this crisis that is rending the Body of Christ quietly to pieces? Where is the outrage? Where are the spiritual doctors to treat this insidious and destructive cancer?

While Pentecostal and Charismatic church leaders clog conference centers and retreats seeking cutting edge wisdom from self-affirming cliques of men and women claiming to be apostles and prophets, where are the bands of brethren who are reaching out to the beaten, bloodied and dying sheep who their fivefold cronies have already grievously abused? Where is their sense of responsibility to reach out to these Christians so easily marginalized to utter anonymity, victims who are out of sight and out of mind of those so impeccably organized to "reach the nations"?

Evangelicals so easily behold the appalling scandal of Roman Catholic clergy abuse and then sniff self-righteously about how "that would never happen among us." In so doing, they betray a complete ignorance about the worlds of pain hidden in plain sight right next to them on the pews of their World Outreach Centers, where "no one is a stranger."  Again, this says so much about the true state of Christian community in a church on the edge of the last days apostasy of which abusive fivefold ministry is an established segment.

We at Spiritwatch Ministries believe it's time for this to situation to change. 

The next and final article in this series will outline what I feel to be an appropriate pastoral response to this spiritual scourge from a Pentecostal minister's perspective.


(25)  Read more testimonials about the dangerous diet cult Remnant Fellowship on our site by clicking here. Go back to our home page to access a complete menu of links about Shamblin and her twisted religion.

(26)  The LDS Church's longstanding culture of deception can be more fully examined by reading the testimonials at our good friend Eric Kettunen's site, Recovery From Mormonism by clicking here.

(27)  The use of fear and loathing by the Watchtower Society to condition its followers is well documented. An excellent discussion of this as written by ex-Jehovah's Witness Randy Watters can be read by clicking here.

(28)  Bill Hamon, "Prophets And Personal Prophecy", p. 92

(29)  Rick Joyner, "False Prophets And False Prophecy", MSJ

(30)  Rick Renner,  "Seducing Spirits", p. 57

(31)  Bob Mumford, The Problem Of Doing Your Own Thing, (Mumford, 1973). The content of this book originally appeared in CGM's publication New Wine Magazine, during the years of 1972 and 1973. It was one of the most widely read Christian circulars of the 1970's during the ascendancy of the CGM-influenced "shepherding" movement and provided direction and admonition to thousands of young and impressionable Christian ministers and their flocks. It is difficult to underestimate the impact this teaching had on the Charismatic movement. CGM would eventually attract for a time the support and alliance with Pat Robertson's CBN organization, Word of Faith advocate Kenneth Copeland and a plethora of leading Charismatic church leaders. This book captures the essence of the "submission" teaching that CGM so energetically advanced as the key to true Christian ministry and advancement of the Kingdom of God - only to find that this spiritual dynamic would become a whirlpool of blacklight that brought thousands of people into damaging spiritual abuse at the hands of "shepherds" whose motives, to say the least, pandered more to the love of human power then the power of godly love.

(32) A few notable examples of Mumford's Scripture twisting are painfully obvious examples of a man willing to make the Bible fit his theology rather then the other way around: After quoting John 16:14-16, he says that "paraphrasing these verses may help us get the message which He was unfolding,'I, Jesus, am going to the Father; and when I go to the Father, the Holy Spirit, in my name, will take the things that belong to me - that is the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit and the authority (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists) and give it all to the church. And when the Holy Spirit is come, dividing to the church these gifts and ministries of the Spirit, you will see Me" (p. 65). 

Here, Mumford equates spiritual authority with divine manifestations of God's grace.  In another place, he points to the "submissive attitude" in the examples of Peter and Paul when dragged before Jewish councils that had arrested them for their preaching about Christ in Acts 5 and Acts 23. He actually views their answers before these corrupt leaders as being examples of submission that "solved their problem", which Mumford informs us, was one involving their own apparent personal struggles rebellion and obedience (pp. 96-97). It is no wonder that the kind of Christian lifestyle advanced by CGM was shadowed by a control-oriented authority system that brooked no discussion, let alone disagreement.

(33) ibid, p. 61, 67

(34) ibid, p. 78, 79

(35) Bevere, John. Under Cover (Nelson, 2001)  p. 84, 115, 147

(36) ibid, p. 163

(37) Hamon, Bill, Prophets And Personal Prophecy, p. 19

(38) Fivefold pastor Jon Arno "A Unique Year" : The site records alleged "prophetic words" dispensed by fivefold ministers for the supposed edification of the church. Site founder Bill Sommers plainly is on record that accuracy of their predictions is of no concern to him: his "commentary" is a clear example of how Biblical truth is a casualty among the ranks of the "Spirit-filled" - but this is a subject for a different article

Occasionally people ask me if we have kept track of what prophecies have come true and which ones have not. I never bother to do so. [It's too big a job anyway.] We do not keep score on the prophets. It may be that every prophecy of disaster that never happens is a testimony of intercession that did happen. After all, Jonah's preaching would have been somewhat less effective, [understatement intended], had he spoken in terms of possibilities. When a prophecy is conditional, when there are some 'if' clauses to it, we may not know what they are. The Lord may or may not expressly state the conditions to a prophecy. That's none of our business. Our job as prophets is to obey to the best of our abilities and give our 'thus sayeth the Lord's regardless of the consequences, regardless of what happens and especially regardless of what others may think, say or do. The Lord is the one who keeps score. And that is based on our obedience, not our track record as prognosticators. As we know He looks at the heart, not the outward appearance. I don't think we need to be in the business of keeping score over who was right and who was wrong. [Love covers a multitude of sins.] .. But as I said, For the most part, I have no discernment, unless God gives it to me. My understanding of the word is limited. The Word is not. To insist that things line up with the word may be to insist that they conform to my limited understanding of the word. The word of God understands me far better than I understand the Word.

(39) Wies, Jim. The House Of His Choosing (Destiny Image, 1999), p. 108, 144  


(41) Cannistraci, ibid, p. 196. Darrand and Shupe's study of the early history of the Latter Rain movement perceptively detailed the underlying power tripping that the leaders of the Canadian revival seemed to be indulging in. This in turn shows how obsessively pre-occupied the North Battleford leaders became with asserting their own preeminence during the restoration of the "original apostolic pattern" they supposedly received. It was none other than George Hawtin himself, Cannistraci's quoted author and spiritual mentor, who penned these stern warnings published in the Sharon Star, the official magazine of the North Battleford organization:

I have no hesitation whatever in saying that unless this divine pattern is followed and the ministries recognized, the whole revival will wind up on the rocks .. This revival will not succeed without the apostolic pattern in everything. Revelation today will come only from the ministries God is setting in the church to receive revelation. .. I beseech all who have entered into this revival to humble themselves and admit that God has ministries of revelation, and ministries to establish the truths that he has laid down for these last days. Forgive me of any confident boasting. I do it only that this move may return to God. .. I call you to witness this fact that your entrance into this revival may be directly traced to its beginnings in the class room in North Battleford, February 13, 1948. (p. 53, 54)

For someone wishing to pardon their boasting, Hawtin's tone is hardly contrite. Download this MP3 audio sermon (4.4 MB) by George Hawtin and listen to how humble Hawtin sounds as he blasts denominational churches (from 5:37 to 6:05) as not being even being in the Body of Christ, in short, as being lost and in darkness. It would seem that he died a bitter man, frustrated and preoccupied with his loss of preeminence in the very movement he started. 

(42) Darrand and Shupe, ibid, p. 46. This was a citation of Hawtin's writing in the Sharon Star, May 1, 1948, p. 2 - barely 3 months after the "restoration" began. His shrill charge of "opportunism" seems hollow when considering how Hawtin's defiance of his denominational leaders' oversight as he governed a Bible institute thereafter emboldened him to engage in unauthorized building programs, educational novelties and unabashed recruitment from the institute's student body to create his own Bible school when asked to resign. Enough of them did to form the nucleus of his North Battleford group where the "restoration" supposedly began - if that isn't what opportunism is , I'm a tongue-talking Brad Pitt who's missed his calling.

(43) Yandian, ibid, pp. 10, 12

(44) I was surprised to find out, when visiting the church during their 1996 "Feast Of Pentecost" campmeeting, that McCann had authored a biographical book entitled From A Stump Hole To The Pulpit (Companion Press, 1991). The book is filled with incidents that show how McCann, a disciple of Oneness Pentecostal pioneer B.F. Hawthorne, was given to prophesying judgment upon those who he came to view as those who opposed him or his work. Not even a boy who rails on his sister for speaking in tongues escapes McCann's attention when "the spirit of prophesy" enters upon him to "make a prophecy concerning the life of that boy" (p. 98). Our Spiritwatch Ministries staff crossed paths with the church in 1996 in our attempt to aid a ex-member of the church whose wife divorced him because he chose to leave the church, taking her youngest child with her to remarry another church member. We visited the church, learned what they taught and observed their campmeeting and researched up enough information we passed on to the ex-member's lawyer who would represent him in the child custody court battle he would later wage with his wife (he would win the case, but ultimately chose to leave his daughter in his ex-wife's custody due to the church-implanted hatred she exhibited toward him).

We remember encountering McCann's daughters (the "Preacherman" apparently didn't have the "Holy Ghost spine" to come himself) outside the court room, their feral railing they did on both the ex-member and myself, and were likely a subject of McCann's prophetic fury. But we're still here, fighting the good fight of faith! In the meantime, reports of factional infighting and a church split at McCann's church continue to surface from contacts with ex-members from the group.  

(45) "Chapel Hill Pastor Resigns, Reinstated", Charisma, October, 1992, p. 89. According to a report in Christianity Today on page 55 of their June 22, 1992 issue, when contacted by the Atlanta Journa/Constitution, Earl Paulk told them that "he was not sure how his brother would be handled."  It took Charisma five months to report that "hours after the younger Paulk had resigned, Nigerian pastor Benson Idahosa told the congregation in the evening service that God wanted Donald reinstated and back on the platform. The Atlanta paper reports that three weeks later, Donald Paulk was back in the pulpit preaching." 

(46) Click here to read an archived version of the 1/29/2006 Atlanta Journal Constitution article on the Paulk fiasco.

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