In October of 2013, John MacArthur, a prominent Reformed Pastor, held a conference called “Strange Fire,” in which he denounced the Charismatic movement as demonic. I listened in as much as I could, skeptical, but with an open mind. I watched as he showed video clips of scenes from various Charismatic churches where people acted as though demon possessed. Disturbed, I dove headlong into my own research. It has taken several months for me to dig around for facts, work through my thoughts and beliefs, and draw my own conclusions. I have summarized my findings here for my family and friends to read, because this topic is of great importance. What I have discovered is a mass invasion of the occult into what I will call the “Hyper-Charismatic church,” (also sometimes referred to as “Third Wave” or “Vineyard” movement) and it is spreading like wildfire, breaking across denominational barriers. We all need to be aware of what is going on so that we can be on guard against deception.
I tried to trace this movement back to its beginnings – to figure out where the church went wrong, what door was opened to allow satan to enter. The best I can tell things started going wrong with the Word of Faith movement publicized by Kenneth Copeland and his followers. They were getting out there with their hyper-faith prosperity gospel, and perhaps more importantly, they changed the atonement by introducing the idea that Jesus did not die and rise again physically, that he was the first “born again man,” that he was only human on earth and performed his miracles as a human, and that we all are divine “seed.” This theme of humans either being divine, having a “divine seed” inside us, or having the potential to become divine is repeated over and over throughout Paganism, Pantheism, various Christian cults and heresies, the occult, and new age mysticism. Through the Word of Faith movement it found its entry into Christianity. Some time after that, the New Apostolic Prophetic movement gained momentum, and this created breeding grounds for trouble. Now not only did we have wrong doctrine, we also had a group of people seeking new revelations from God and valuing them over what has already been revealed in the Bible. We now had a group of people living for new experiences in the supernatural – something that is never encouraged in the Bible but tends to happen among groups that over-emphasize the gifts of the Spirit.
All of these things have been growing in momentum over the past years, throwing doors wide open for satan to come in with his deception. I am sure there are some wolves out there who knew exactly what they were doing when they ushered “the god of this world” into the Christian church, but my honest belief is that most people are deceived. I have read and listened to first hand accounts of people who were involved in this movement. In the beginning, it would seem that some people at least were sincere and wanted revival in America. I think most people involved in the movement even now are sincere, but because of their focus on the prophetic, they are not discerning the spirits. While God can and does work through any movement, saving those who seek him, I fear that this movement has derailed into occultism because they did not wait for the true move of God and instead opened their arms to the first spirit power that came along.
Rodney Howard Brown was the one that officially brought the supposed new move of God into the church with the “laughing revival.” The story goes that he was deep in prayer, begging God to touch him. He eventually got frustrated that nothing supernatural was happening and he told God “either come down here and touch me or I will come up there and touch you.” Instantly he was knocked backward on the ground in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. He brought this “holy laughter” back to the church where he spread it by the laying on of hands. All the big-name Charismatic tele-evangelists received this “new anointing” on God TV in front of the entire world. You can look it up and watch it online. It is not a pleasant sight. These leaders then took the anointing back to their churches where it has continued to spread.
The spirit behind the “anointing” causes many strange manifestations including the signature laughing, uncontrollable crying, “drunkenness in the spirit,” shaking, all manner of strange involuntary movements and sounds, animal noises, shrieking, trances, physical healings, demonic tongues, ect. Here is some video footage of churches that have received this “anointing”- it is complete pandemonium. People believe the Holy Spirit of God is behind all this, but strangely these same types of physical manifestations happen in the Hindu religion when people receive or attain “kundalini” (a spiritual awakening). These types of physical manifestations have happened throughout time in various Christian cults or heretical groups (the Quakers and Shakers for example). There are also instances recorded of them happening on the outskirts of the Reformation and great revivals, although the leaders of these revivals stood very much in opposition to such manifestations and highly discouraged them. This to me is a huge red flag. The church is not supposed to look like cults and pagan religions. These manifestations sound very much to me like a counterfeit to the Holy Spirit that was once discouraged but now has been welcomed into the church.
In churches that have received this new spirit, there are a wide variety of strange things going on, from the crazy manifestations listed above, to various signs and wonders (the glory cloud appearing during worship, angel feathers, gold dust, gold fillings in teeth, church members finding diamonds in their home, ect), and a variety of new age/occult practices. Many of the leaders behind this movement are high profile, and Christians are getting sucked into listening to their deceptive teachings without realizing what these men actually believe and what is going on in their churches. I normally do not like to point fingers but because of the urgency of this subject, I am going to list below only what I can back up. I certainly do not condemn the thousands of people in this movement, many of whom are probably genuine Christians and are unaware of the extreme things I am about to describe. I also do not deny that people have been saved in this movement, (God works everything for his purposes) but I have serious questions about the direction this movement has been heading since shortly after it’s birth. There is a time and place for calling out false prophets. Keep in mind as you read further that all of these leaders publicly support each other and each others’ practices. They are all working together and believe they are at the forefront of revival and an outpouring of refreshing of the Holy Spirit for the last days.
Pastors Bill and Beni Johnston of Bethel Church in Redding California, and Jesus Culture their worship band
- Bill and Beni believe they can awaken angels for revival and supernatural signs and wonders by calling “wakey wakey.” Read about it in Beni’s own words here. (communication with any supernatural being other than God is clearly defined as idol worship and witchcraft in the Bible)
- Bill and Beni are also heavily into mysticism with their acceptance of “mystics” and “seers” as a gifting of God to the church. See Beni’s casual references and explanations here and here. (Mystics and seers have always been around in various pagan, eastern, and New Age religions, but since when have they been a part of Christianity?)
- Many signs and wonders have been reported happening at Bethel church. Here is video footage of the “glory cloud.”
- Bill Johnston has a school of supernatural ministry where he teaches people to “operate in the supernatural,” which by it’s very definition is occult.
- Bethel church, as well as Rick Joyner’s Morningstar church in North Carolina it would seem, have “prophetic booths” as part of their services, where people can go to “receive ministry.” Here is Morningstar’s website with a reference to prophetic booths. Here is Bethel’s website’s description. People have to make an appointment ahead of time to receive a prophetic word! I would say this is fortune telling in disguise, but it’s not even very well disguised.
John and Lilly Crowder of Sons of Thunder Ministry actually refer to themselves as “the new mystics.” See the title of his website, and his book.
- John Crowder’s ministry heads up the Mystical School, where “contemplative, supernatural Christianity” is taught. (The words mystical, and contemplative immediately mark this as occult/new age) As if that were not enough proof, here is the course description taken word for word from his website with the things that concern me the most in bold:
“Operating in Trances, Raptures & Ecstatic Prayer; Experiencing Physical Phenomena of Mysticism; Activation in Creative Miracles, Signs & Wonders; Understanding our Access to New Creation Realities; A Historical Grid of Miracle Workers & Mystics; Activation in the Seer Realm, Prophecy; Receiving Open Heavens & Revelatory Understanding; Accessing and Manifest the Glory Realm” (Source)
- John Crowder is best known for his signature “toking the ghost,” literally getting high on what he believes is “the Holy Ghost.” Here is a compilation of video clips of John Crowder doing some creepy stuff – “ghost toking” is at 2:31
- John Crowder is also known for “grave sucking,” literally sucking up the air off of a grave to release the “anointing” from the dead person’s bones. Here is a video of him “gravesucking” and releasing the “glory” of a dead man’s anointing, along with him spouting the typical Christianese that he and others like him spout, causing so many to be deceived. I don’t think I need to explain how occult this is.
Todd Bentley, who headed up the Lakeland Revivals, actually used to perform physical healings by the power of an angel he calls Emma. Emma’s story was once posted on his website, but he removed it because of the backlash. It is still floating around the web though, and can be read here. (This website is pro-Todd Bentley but it includes the fullest version of the story I can find.) Since when have we been allowed to heal by the power of an angel? Jesus warned against a focus on supernatural beings when he told his disciples not to rejoice that the demons fled from them, but instead to rejoice that their names were written in the book of life!
Mike Bickle, founder of International House of Prayer (IHOP), has received many accusations of using cult-like manipulation and control over his students at IHOP. A private investigation was conducted against Mike Bikkle and IHOP and it was concluded that IHOP is indeed a cult. I read the entire report where it was posted with my own eyes several months ago. Since then it has been taken down, allegedly due to pressure from IHOP. I found a copy of the report, as far as I can tell word-for-word, preserved here: part 1, part 2, and part 3. (I would rather link to the official report but I’m glad it was preserved somewhere.)
Rick Joyner, of Morningstar Ministries, is a self-proclaimed prophet and is considered by some to be the head prophet of the Charismatic movement. In my opinion he is the most dangerous of the group because he seems so Christian. There are a couple of things about him that I find highly concerning:
- He is a member of the Order of the Knights of Malta of the Roman Catholic Church as evidenced here. Some have accused him of being a Freemason but as far as I can tell, the Knights of Malta are not masonic. However, with his loyalties to the Pope and connections to the United Nations through his order, he is in a strategic position to have global influence. This along with his visions of a global church bring huge red flags to my mind.
- His prophecies and writings, both in his books, and on his website, contain a consistent alarming high view of himself as a spokesperson of God, contempt for the traditional (read: non-hypercharismatic) church, and non-Biblical view of the end times. I will go into this more in a moment.
This is a very brief summary – there is a lot more going on that I don’t have the time to include. But let me say this: When pagan religions, the occult, the new age, and the Christian church all look the same, something is very very wrong. There is a reason why so many other belief systems share similarities – it is because in essence they are one and the same. As followers of the true God Jehovah, we are supposed to look different! That’s what the word “holy” means – set apart.
Having said that, I must emphasize that to the average Christian with no knowledge of the occult activities in these churches, especially to those saved straight into the Charismatic church without a more traditional church education or experience, this movement can be very hard to recognize. It has swept into our church culture and seems very Christian. All of its doctrines are built on doctrines introduced by the Word of Faith movement which has become more and more acceptable to mainstream Christianity. All of its positions are backed up with Scripture.
Here are a few key features to help us recognize this movement, whether we are visiting a church, reading a book, or listening to music:
- A focus on the prophetic- emphasizing the need for new revelations. Accusing Christians who stand by the Bible and traditional Christianity as it’s been believed for 100s of years of “living out of their minds,” not being “Spirit-led,” of putting God in a box, and not accepting the “new wine” he is pouring out in the last days. The only new wine the Bible talks about is in reference to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ – the mystery of God revealed. The new wine these people are referring to is the blessing received by Robert Howard Brown – new manifestations – a new spirit. They even use the phrase “pass the new wine” in reference to the manifestation of being “drunk in the spirit.” In essence what they are saying, whether they realize it or not, is that the sacrifice of Jesus is no longer enough – that we now need signs and wonders, manifestations and experiences.
- A focus on revival – but with an emphasis on signs and wonders and a heavy focus on living or operating in the supernatural. Sometimes a clear gospel message is given, which makes them hard to spot. However, they will usually emphasize that we are saved to perform signs and wonders and display the power of God to bring others into the kingdom, rather than emphasizing that we are saved so that we can be made HOLY and RIGHTEOUS before God and so bring others into the kingdom. God is a supernatural God and works in supernatural ways apart from us and through us; I am not here to argue that, but the supernatural has never been the point of the Gospel. The point is righteousness! Paul pronounces a curse on anyone who preaches a gospel of Christ different from the one we originally received – even if it be he himself or an angel from heaven that preaches it to us! (Galatians 1:8)
- A focus on seeking new supernatural experiences- something that is absolutely forbidden in the Bible under the heading of witchcraft. The draw of the occult is and always has been the hidden things – the secret knowledge – the supernatural experiences – and whether it comes packaged as Gnosticism, New Age Mysticism, or Hyper-Charismatic Christianity, it is still occult. Jesus Christ is the “mystery of God revealed.” There are no more secrets, whether knowledge or experiences. Honestly, at first this was hard for me to wrap my head around because we are so immersed in a Church culture where “going deeper with God” means seeking new experiences in worship. Supernatural experiences, whether prophecies or healings or a sense of closeness in worship, are seen as a mark of spirituality. The Bible, however, teaches that the fruit of righteousness is the mark of spirituality and it consistently warns against seeking a sign. (I should clarify here that I am not against spiritual experiences and definitely don’t believe that everything supernatural is demonic, especially if it something that occurs in the Bible. What I am saying is that seeking out new experiences is dangerous ground, as is viewing spiritual experiences as a mark of spirituality.)
- A dominionist eschatology – the belief that the kingdom of God is a literal, earthly kingdom and that Jesus needs us, the church, to usher it in – to bring heaven to earth. It’s a heady theology because it makes people feel important, needed by God, and powerful. However it makes the same mistake the Hebrews of Jesus’s day did in thinking that he had come to set up an earthly kingdom. It conveniently ignores the fact that Jesus said “The kingdom of God is here.” Jesus is the king, and the only one who can usher in his kingdom. He already did this when he came to earth and when he comes a second time he will usher in the fullness of its glory. Yes, we have a role to play because the Kingdom of God is within us, and in this sense we do take the Kingdom of God with us wherever we go. But as with everything we need to maintain balance. And we need to remember that while the Kingdom of God has often been announced with signs and wonders, “The Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We are warned over and over again that signs and wonders can and will lie, especially in the last days.
I have a feeling that as we enter the last days the lines between religions are going to become more and more blurred. After what I’ve seen of this hyper-charismatic movement, I believe it is possible that they will be at the forefront of the push for a one-world religion, and that as their doctrine and practice becomes more and more occultic, they will become more and more openly hostile towards traditional Christianity. As noted above, many of these leaders are dominionists with a “kingdom now” philosophy, which means they see themselves at the forefront of a great Spirit-led army, ushering the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. They believe they will literally take over the world including the government in the end times. They have received this information in visions from “God,” but strangely, in the visions “God’s” end times army is not just fighting the forces of darkness or even the world system, but instead more “traditional” members of the church who are viewed as a “cancer” to the whole! Rick Joyner, as mentioned above, is notorious for his prophecies of an end-times civil war in the church. In his popular book “The Final Quest,” in the first section, “The Hoards of Hell are Marching,” he describes the armies of hell as riding on the backs of Christians who are attacking the church with division. (Source) In this way he cleverly sets his movement at odds with those in the church who would criticize it. This theme of accusing anyone who disagrees with his movement as being divisive and “traditional” is common in his writing. In an article on his website he says:
“Just as with the American Civil War, spiritual slavery and oppression will become the primary issue facing the church…Nearly half of the believers in the world today are held under a spiritual “plantation mentality”; leaders are only seeking to build and maintain their own spiritual estates, and they are doing it mostly through spiritual slave labor. Some are benevolent toward their people, unless they try to leave, and others are as spiritually ruthless and cruel as most slave owners truly were… There is a huge portion of the church which is being held bondage to the same religious spirit that manifested itself to the Pharisees, and it will attack any new movement that arises in the church. The more anointed the new movement is, the more these traditionalists will be threatened by it, and the more vehemently they will attack it.… the church [cannot] continue to abide many of the present contradictions in her teachings and practices within the half that is so abusing them. …The longer we continue to compromise with such institutions, which use manipulation or control, for the sake of unity or for any other reason, the more it will ultimately cost us to remove the cancer from our midst….The coming spiritual civil war will be between the Blue’s and the Gray’s. In dreams and visions blue often represents heavenly-mindedness, and gray speaks of those who live by the power of their own minds – which is equivalent to the brain’s gray matter. This will be a conflict between those who may be genuine Christians, but who live mostly according to their natural minds and human wisdom, and those who follow the Holy Spirit.” (Source)
Having come out of a very “traditional” background myself, there is a lot I could say in response to Rick Joyner’s “visions” (maybe he should remove his support from Mike Bickle and IHOP if he’s worried about control and manipulation in the church) but I’ll keep it short. It is nothing short of spiritual pride that makes one group think they are more “spiritual” than another. Spiritual pride tore apart the Reformed Baptist church I grew up in and I have since found that it is just as prevalent in charismatic circles. If there is one thing I have learned over the years of attending and interacting with various denominations (Reformed Baptist, Baptist, Christian Reformed, Southern Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Independent Charismatic, Four-Square, and Assemblies of God) it is that we are all the same. There is no one group that has the corner on walking in the Spirit. When I first entered the Charismatic movement I probably would have agreed with portions of Rick Joyner’s statement. But as the years have passed it has become abundantly clear to me that we are all fleshly humans with the tendency to live out of our flesh and mind, and Christians everywhere understand that we must walk in the Spirit to overcome the works of the flesh. You cannot be a Christian and continue to walk in the flesh. To be a Christian is to be surrendered to the Spirit. This is not some esoteric supernatural experience. It is simply working with the Holy Spirit to renew your mind and change your behavior as day after day you follow him. Rick Joyner, if what is happening in your church (view here) is your interpretation of walking in the Spirit, I don’t want any part of it. If you were truly standing against dead orthodoxy and legalism as you claim, then I would be right beside you, but you are taking things to the opposite extreme. And yes, you’re right, I will fight against the new age mysticism you encourage. If doing so is enough to make me divisive in your mind, then call me a grey traditionalist.
To be blunt, I personally believe that Rick Joyner received a supernatural dream but I do not believe it came from God. According to my understanding of Biblical end times prophecy, God will do great works in the end times and the gospel will be preached to the ends of the earth. However, lying signs and wonders will be widespread, deceiving many. Christians will be severely persecuted under the anti-Christ world system. The power that takes over world government and religion in Biblical prophecy is the anti-Christ system, not the church. I fear that this Hyper-Charismatic army may find themselves fighting for the wrong side.
We are clearly warned over and over again that false prophets will arise out of the church, will mislead many who believe they are Christians, that they will perform signs and wonders. I always wondered as a young girl how this could be and now I see it happening right in front of my eyes! It can happen because the move is “Christian!” I have listened to these men talk and read enough of their writings to know how easy it is to be led astray by their Christian-cloaked deception. This is why we are warned to look at the fruit! Occult/new age practices and out-of-control manifestations are bad fruit! It does not matter how loudly this movement boasts of being Spirit-minded and Spirit-led, they are manifesting fruits of a false spirit.
There is so much more I could say on this subject to better support and explain my conclusions, but then this paper will end up being 20 pages long and no one will read it! For further study, I suggest looking at the differences between Christianity and the occult in history and in the Old Testament. I suggest studying the Word of Faith movement and how their now wide-spread teachings compare to the traditional teachings of the church. I suggest studying the way that God has moved and worked throughout the Bible and comparing that to what is happening today As always I suggest looking closer at the atonement of Jesus Christ and asking ourselves the question, “Is that enough?” or are we told to expect something new in the last days? For now I will close with Scriptures that highlight my concerns with the Hyper-Charismatic movement:
“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ [Anointed one] or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you ahead of time.” Matthew 24:23-25 [note the use of the word “anointed one” – there’s a lot of “anointing” being thrown around today]
“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.”
“Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” Galatians 1:7-9
“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Matthew 16:1-4 [signs and wonders, the supernatural, is not the point of Christianity]
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:15,16,22,23
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” 2 Corinthians 11: 13-15
“Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen [visions]; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. They have lost connection with the head” Colossians 2:18-19A
“I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.” Acts 20:29-31
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1
The Bible is full of warnings to be sober-minded and self-controlled (as opposed to “drunk on the Spirit”):
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8
“Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach…” 1 Tim 3:2
“So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober.” Thessalonians 5:6
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.” Titus 2:2
“As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:5
“The end of all things is near. Therefore be “clear minded” and self-controlled so that you can pray,” 1st Peter 4:7
Here are a few Biblical descriptions of what true religion or spirituality looks like
“No, Oh people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.“Micah 6:8
“If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” James 1:26-27
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” John 14:15
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” Galatians 5:22-23