Here is Part 2 of our analysis of Pastor Smith’s (“Pastor Smith” is a pseudonym for our former pastor) sermon on “The Anointing.” If you haven’t already done so, please take the time to read either the sermon transcript, or Part 1 of our analysis, or both. We realize that they’re lengthy. The sermon transcript alone is over 10,000 words. Yet there’s just something about reading it straight up, seeing Pastor Smith’s words in black and white, that demonstrates the pitfalls of Charismania far better than we ever could.
So let’s continue with our analysis.
We left off with Pastor Smith’s admonishing the crowd not to expect a “pie-eating buddy” out of him. Instead, he tells them, he must keep his distance from his people. After expounding on this for awhile, he goes on, in paragraph 29, to discuss his next point, which is that everybody needs a moment in time that defines their Christianity. He says:
(29) Most churches don’t – what I would say on a corporate level – pray for people. Now I’m talkin’, we pray, but I’m talking about, PRAYING for people. When Samuel found David, he just didn’t say, “OK, David, you’re the next king of Israel, sha na na, go go go, well, ya ya ya, bye.” No, he took the vial of oil, he poured it over his head, he probably laid his hands upon him. Whatever transacted at that moment, it said the Spirit of God came upon David from that moment. See, every one of you need a divine encounter with the Spirit of God.
(30) Every one of you need a place, you need some place in your history that you go back to, and you say, “Right then and right there is when I turned into a different kind of person. Right then and right there is when I became that new creature that Paul wrote about. Right then and right there is when the burden got removed, the yoke got destroyed, the depression got broken, the cancer got healed, the spirit of suicide lifted off of me, wrath, rebellion, and disobedience broke off of my life. Right then and right there. I was at that altar, that man of God, that woman of God, put their hand on me, and the power of God hit me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet.
This sounds good, and it does get the crowd cheering, but the most important question we could ask is, “Is this Biblical?” Does the BIBLE tell us that we NEED a moment or a place of dramatic encounter, dramatic transformation?
I believe the answer simply has to be “No.” Search the Scriptures. Can you find any verse in the Bible to support this notion? I couldn’t. And while it is true that key figures in the Bible, such as the Apostle Paul, did have single life-changing experiences, there are also plenty of other important people, such as the Apostle Peter or King David or Timothy, who had faith and a walk with God that progressed in fits and starts. Timothy, we learn, had been trained since his youth.
Once again, Pastor Smith advocates a type of experiential Christianity that could have the effect of making many folks – particularly those who have been Christians since childhood and have gradually matured in their walk with God over many years – doubt the validity of their faith, if they can’t point to a single defining moment of “going to the altar” and returning to their seats radically changed. At the same time, this teaching sets people up to value a single dramatic encounter over the less showy (but more Scripturally supported) character traits that demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit
There is NOTHING written in the Bible about “being able to point to a definite time or place.” But the Bible DOES say that we show that we are Christ’s by demonstrating His love and His humility. We demonstrate our faith by having the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control) and (according to James 1) extending kindness and generosity to orphans and widows.
Also note that although God used Samuel to anoint David, it had NOTHING to do with Samuel and EVERYTHING to do with God. Samuel was just obediently following what God told him to do.
In paragraph 31, Pastor Smith says:
(31) So, why, why do I spend so much time laying hands on people? I mean, and sometimes, I’m standing there saying, “Why am I doing this?” Because anointing is being imparted. Power is imparted.
Here I have to ask, how do we know this? Is it because some people fall down? Is it because Smith TELLS us this is so? If “anointing” is really being imparted, then why do so many of the people who fall down get up and continue to live just like they always did? Why do so many Living Word folks seem to remain mired in their same unbiblical lifestyles? If they REALLY had received “the anointing of God” from Smith’s hands, then why are so few people truly permanently changed after they fall down?
Paragraph 31 continues with,
Why is it important for that touch of God to be upon you? Because as the power of God comes upon you and the revelation of the authority or the call of God upon your life is upon you, you will also understand that to get you to where God wants you to be, He will release favor on you.
Here I just have to ask, how did we suddenly leap from “anointing” to “favor”? Where in the Bible does it say that favor goes with anointing?
Paragraph 31 ends with,
But when you are on a mission to possess what God has truly called you to do, I believe there will be that favor of God upon you to get you to where you’re going.
Where? Where in Scripture do we see this principle? Yes, God will work out HIS purposes for us. For HIS glory. This often will have nothing to do with “favor” as we humans would define it, however. We are told many times in the New Testament that as followers of Christ, we can EXPECT persecutions. Not an easy life marked by “favor.” Since we are not God, we have a limited understanding of how God will work out His purposes. Sometimes what God chooses to do for us won’t even be remotely close to what we’d choose for ourselves. Yet we can take comfort in the promise of Romans 8:28, that all things will – in the end – work together for our good, to the glory of God. And that’s going to include persecutions. Jesus was persecuted. All the Apostles were persecuted. We have NO Scriptural basis to expect anything less for ourselves.
Paragraph 32 continues with the notion that we are anointed to succeed in a particular profession. Again, it’s difficult to see how this is Scriptural. Pastor Smith also, once again, segues here into talking about Joseph, although to repeat my earlier point, we don’t read anything in the Bible about the term “anointing” in connection with Joseph’s life.
In paragraphs 33 and 34, Pastor Smith engages in a practice that has had some interesting psychological effects on his congregation: he calls out certain people by name and uses them as examples in his sermon.
I’ve mentioned before how the seats in the front rows were reserved for certain “special” people. Some of them were part of the Smiths’ entourage, functioning as bodyguards and door-openers. Since I’ve already described this practice of special reserved seating, I won’t bother to go into detail again here. But those front-row folks enjoyed a certain level of status that was only accentuated when Pastor Smith would use them as examples. It made all the rest of us “no-accounts” aspire to the day when Pastor Smith would know US, would use US as part of his object lessons.
Remember, Pastor Smith has already alluded, just a few moments earlier, to how he keeps himself distant from the congregation, how he doesn’t know what’s going on with most people, and how that’s for THEIR OWN GOOD, so that he can have a clear head to “deliver a word” to them. Yet these front-row folks are suddenly exceptions to the whole “pastor-as-isolated-celebrity” spiel. It sends oddly mixed messages, and it functions as a power play.
It also keeps certain influential members – often very financially successful and socially visible people – feeling special, which probably helps to keep them tethered and loyal to Smith’s ministry. It’s really a very interesting ploy.
In paragraphs 35 through 37, Pastor Smith describes the Holy Spirit as being our “agent.” He describes the ways that we can expect God to move on our behalf. Once again, you’d be hard-pressed to back up this concept with anything out of the Bible…unless it happens to be the “Bible” that Joel Osteen (of “Your Best Life Now” fame) has been using lately.
In paragraphs 38 through 53, Pastor Smith discusses how “the anointing” will create character and will create a hungering and thirsting for righteousness. This is probably the strongest section of his sermon, providing a reminder that we all need from time to time. Yet considering Smith’s topic is supposed to be “the anointing,” it would be helpful if Smith had explained how – specifically – this function of “the anointing” differs from the role of the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible.
In fact, if you read that section of Smith’s sermon, it’s impossible to tell how “the anointing” is any different from having the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Bible tells us that it is the Holy Spirit’s role to convict us of sin. And as we yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading and direction, it is the HOLY SPIRIT that produces within us the character and integrity that Smith speaks of.
I’m not sure why Smith is emphasizing a nebulous concept like “the anointing” when he could just as easily – and with FAR more Scriptural support – be talking about the Holy Spirit.
Within this section about character and integrity, I find it fascinating that in paragraph 43, Smith cites Bill Hybels (of Willow Creek fame):
(43) Now listen to me about this. When Bill Hybels, who pastors one of the largest churches in the United States, at one time Willow Creek was the largest in the United States, thousands of people, and Hybels said this in his book called “Courageous Leadership.” He brought this subject up, he said, “I used to hire number 1, that my number 1 priority in making a hire was basically, do they have the ability to do the job? Do they have the education, do they have the experience, do they have the knowledge, do they have the skill set to do this job?” Now we’re talking about a church that has tens of thousands of people, so when you put somebody in charge of something, they better be able to carry the mail. And he said, “Do they have the skill set? And I learned through the journey of pastoring that I could teach a person how to do the job, but I could never teach at a leadership level how to be integrous.” Said, “My number 1 thing now when I hire is integrity.” And what you’re seeing here, is in more of a business way of communicating it, he said, “What I’m looking for is an anointed man.” Because if you’re an anointed man, the anointing will do what a class cannot do.
I really wonder why Smith would quote Bill Hybels as an authority on anything. Hybels is one of the three original proponents (Robert Schuller and Rick Warren are the other two) of the “user-friendly” church that Smith is always mocking! Why is Hybels suddenly credible? Because he has a large church? Considering how Smith loves to boast about how HE has refused to cave to the “seeker-friendly” movement, it makes no sense that he’s now quoting Hybels as some sort of expert on “anointing.”
Did anyone else notice that once again, after quoting Hybels, Smith then turns around and re-defines the terms? Hybels says he’ll only hire people of integrity. Smith announces that this is “just another way of saying he wants ‘anointed’ people.”
Here we get to a perfect illustration of my biggest frustration when Smith – or any other Charismaniac – tosses around the term “anointing.” And that is this: why do we need to talk about such a convoluted subject as the “anointing”? Virtue, character, and integrity are all great to discuss from the pulpit, because there are literally thousands of Scriptures to back you up. You could spend years preaching about obedience and practical ways to follow what God commands us to do. Talk about how we can LOVE each other. Talk about how we can be HONEST in our lives. Talk about how we can pursue moral purity, humility, self-discipline, generosity, patience, and kindness.
And also…at the risk of sounding like I’m just a nit-picker…I really wish that someone would tell Pastor Smith that “integrous” is NOT a real word. Smith finds ways to inject “integrous” into just about every one of his sermons, yet it seems like nobody – not even one of his chosen front-row folks – has ever had the nerve to tell him that while “integrous” may sound all proper and intellectual, it’s not actually in the dictionary.
One more important note on this section about the role of “the anointing” as it relates to integrity would have to do with paragraph 45:
(45) Now when there’s integrity, you will impact everybody around you, because you become a person that people can trust. But when you get into holiness, it is part of your relationship with God. The priesthood could not draw nigh to God. They had a golden plate that was across their chest that said, “Holiness unto the Lord.” Now we’re in a church situation in our culture that holiness is something people don’t even talk about anymore. Everything that seemed to represent integrity or righteousness has kinda been thrown under the bus. But what you’ve got to begin to see is that when you draw nigh unto God, God is expecting you to have a pure heart.
I was very disturbed by this particular paragraph, as it seems to be saying that somehow, if we have integrity, we then possess something in our own strength that can enable us to approach God. I believe that, although at first blush this SOUNDS good, it effectively minimizes what Christ has done for us.
The ONLY thing that allows us to approach God is the blood of Jesus. The Bible says that all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. We bring nothing to the table apart from the Cross of Christ. It’s only when we throw ourselves on Christ’s mercy and depend on His grace that we can have a “pure heart.” It has nothing to do with some mystical impartation of “anointing.” It has everything to do with Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection.
Within the last several paragraphs of this sermon, we see Smith’s final thrust, which I believe he summarizes best in the paragraphs 54 and 55:
(54) So anointing is more than power. OK, hear me, I said anointing is more than power. Anointing – number one, everybody say, “Impartation.” [Crowd responds, says, “Impartation.”] Understand anointing has to do with impartation. This is why you cannot cultivate a more powerful walk in God in a dead church.
(55) Cuz there’s nothing to impart. What’s Tiger Woods gonna learn from me in golf? What NOT to do? [Crowd laughs.] What could I teach Todd Helton about batting? What could I teach Michael Jordan about a jump shot? Nothing! So why – he wouldn’t hang around me for sports advice. “No, Michael, do it this way. Do it like this, Mike.” Huh, good Lord. “Now, let me show you how to hit that ball, Tiger.” Y’all are laughing about that, but do you realize, people, that in their heart they say, “I really wanna be all that God wants me to be,” set in DEAD spiritual environments with PEOPLE that all they’re doing is working through it up here. I’ll tell you something, if you want an impartation, you better get around somebody that’s HAD an impartation.
Ah, once again we’re back to Smith promoting himself. The whole point of this sermon is, you need Pastor Smith. You need him to be cold and distant and uninvolved in your life, except to “speak a word” to you and to “lay hands on” you. You need him, because he’s anointed, and somehow, this mystical anointing – that you can’t just declare that you have, although SMITH can declare that HE has it – is what makes you pursue holiness and integrity. You need this anointing, because it is what brings “favor” on you. If you go to Smith’s church, you will begin to have people magically respond to you, giving you jobs you’re not qualified for, opening doors that you naturally couldn’t open, because Smith’s anointing will transfer itself over to you, and you will have favor. And favor proves that you’re anointed.
The bottom line is, Smith cheats his people by wasting their time with all this “anointing” mumbo jumbo. He should just tell them about Jesus, how you can actually pray to Him and ask Him for power, and through the Holy Spirit, He will help you obey what He wants you to obey! Yet instead, we have to wade through more than an hour of blather and convoluted mysticism, all for the purpose of promoting your need for Smith and for Living Word Church.
It’s really too bad.