Archive for the ‘spiritual abuse’ Category

I haven’t updated this site in a long while, primarily because we’ve put our journey through “Charismania” behind us…for the most part.

Oh sure, from time to time my husband and I will reminisce about our years at Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names used here, except those of widely-known celebrity preachers).  We will joke about some of the more outrageous stuff we went through.  We will shake our heads and marvel at how we got sucked in.

But soon it will have been four years since we left Living Word, so as you might imagine, we’ve pretty much processed the obvious emotions.  We’ve thought through most of the things that were off-kilter about Living Word Church and the Smith family (Pastor Smith, his wife Mary, and their two young-adult sons) who ran Living Word and controlled it just like it was their family business.

Because I was pretty sure we were “over” everything, I was actually looking forward to a community event that required our attendance, an event that was coincidentally going to be held at Living Word Church.  I was eager to walk through the doors again and see if I’d feel any of the old feelings.  I wondered what memories would be stirred by something as basic as how the place smelled.  (Oddly enough – and I’m almost embarrassed to admit this – I always  thought that Living Word exuded a really alluring fragrance, almost like the whole place had been soaked in anointing oil.)

I wanted to see if the Smith family’s highly retouched portraits still graced the walls of the church lobby…I was curious if they’d added any new photos of the sons’ wives and the grandchildren who had been born since we left.

And I wondered if I’d somehow be able to flip through a copy of the magazine that Mary Smith had begun to publish a year or so ago.

Yes, you read that right.  Living Word Church’s “first lady” publishes her own women’s magazine.

We may be “over” our Living Word experience, and we may have moved on, but we still like to check the church’s website from time to time, just to see if anything has changed.  It’s been fun to keep tabs on various staffing changes, and to see which guest ministries they’ve continued to invite in to preach.

That’s where I first learned of Mary Smith’s magazine.  When it was first launched, it was heavily promoted on the church’s website.

From the beginning, I marveled at the concept.  A magazine seemed like a really ambitious undertaking, especially considering that Living Word Church really is not that big.  Although they like to call themselves a “megachurch,” attendance seems to hover at around the same level, with probably fewer than 1,000 people showing up on most Sundays.  Shortly after we left Living Word, they’d added an extra service on Sunday mornings while ditching their Sunday evening service.  But that move didn’t last.  After a couple of years, there apparently just wasn’t the demand for two Sunday morning services.  Judging from the videos broadcast online, it didn’t even look like they were filling the 1,500-seat auditorium to capacity (or even close) for ONE service.

So I wondered at the idea of a ladies’ magazine which would have such a small distribution.  From the church’s website, it didn’t look like it was a skinny little pamphlet or brochure.  The magazine instead appeared to be quite a hefty glossy book.  Who does that sort of thing?  Who puts out a semi-quarterly magazine – complete with the First Lady’s photo gracing each cover, like she’s Oprah or something – for an audience of maybe (at best) a thousand readers?

Although the website showed that they were charging $5 per copy, it still seemed like a money-losing endeavor.  Knowing the hugely expensive photographer the First Lady always uses – the one who charges $300 per hour to retouch photos – and knowing that nothing at Living Word is ever done halfway, I could only imagine what a money pit a 50-page (or so) magazine must be. 

Plus, I wondered about its sustainability.  During our years at Living Word Church, Mary Smith had a pattern of starting programs with great fanfare, only to watch them quickly burn out.  Lots of classes and activities would happen once or twice and then would just quietly go away with ZERO explanation (sort of like how there never seemed to be a word mentioned about bringing back the second Sunday morning service).  The First Lady would set the bar so high for herself, with such crazily demanding and exacting standards, such over-the-top expectations, that it was almost a given that nothing she did ever lasted.  Even the constantly touted “Mary Events” – those grossly indulgent special women’s meetings, with their elaborate decorations, expensive door prizes, pricey tickets, and stressed-out decorating committee of women who sniped and snapped at each other, all in the name of ministry – didn’t happen that often, following no set schedule at all.  About the only “Mary Event” that took place with any predictable regularity was the Christmas Tea (with tickets priced at upwards of $20 apiece), and even that has quietly gone by the wayside over the past couple of years.

So how in the world would Mary Smith be able to sustain a women’s magazine, especially one that appeared to be so ambitious?

I was curious, too, about what would be in such a magazine.  With all the publications out there already geared toward women – even Christian women – what would be the point of yet another periodical containing the usual drivel about fashion, cooking, relationships, and decorating?  What could Mary Smith’s Living Word minions find to say that would be so unique and necessary that it would warrant going to so much effort and expense?

Since the first issue of Mary Smith’s magazine made its debut, my husband and I had been joking about how I could get my hands on a copy.  We figured we were too recognizable to just show up at church some Sunday night, stroll into the bookstore, and buy one anonymously.  Besides, we would never go to that much trouble just to satisfy my idle curiosity.  And I certainly wasn’t going to order one through the church website, either.  I wouldn’t want anyone on staff to think I’m still as interested as I am in the goings-on of what had always been (in my experience) such a shallow-minded yet haughty attempt at women’s ministries.  Not to mention, I wouldn’t want to get my name and address back on the church’s main mailing list.

But this community event – now there might be an opportunity to at least surreptitiously flip through a copy before hastily putting it back on the rack (or table, or wherever I might find one left lying about).

As we drove into Living Word Church’s parking lot the other day, I actually found myself feeling a bit jittery and sick.  Truly, the place is that laden with memories for me.  During our years at Living Word, it was quite literally the number one priority of our lives.  Just about any time the church doors were open, we’d be there.  We would schedule vacations around Sundays, so that we could miss as few church services as possible.  Also, because I had gotten my involvement with Living Word all tangled up in my thinking with my Christian faith itself, I frequently confused promoting Living Word with sharing the gospel of Jesus.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m actually ashamed now to look back on all the times when I’d start out trying to “share Christ” but then quickly end up talking about how, “If you REALLY want to experience REAL Christianity, you’ve GOT to go to my church and hear my pastor!”


For at least the first couple of years we were members of Living Word, I sincerely believed that there was something very special about what went on there – that there was something unique and unsurpassable about Living Word and Pastor Smith that could not be duplicated anywhere else.  I believed that Living Word (and Pastor Smith) almost held some sort of magic, where if someone would only walk through the doors of that church, they would be overcome by the power of God and would experience a dramatic change, the same kind of change that I thought I’d experienced.  I was convinced that the man (Pastor Smith) and the place (the church building, particularly the sanctuary) were “conduits of the anointing,” as Pastor Smith himself would often say.  I thought that any problem people faced could be solved miraculously if I could just get them to come to my church and have Pastor Smith lay hands on them.

So the church facility itself has always held a certain level of mystique for me.  And as we drove into the parking lot, I found myself feeling the same giddy anticipation that I used to feel when we arrived at church ready to “partake of the anointing.”

I was surprised by how little things have changed.  The Smith family’s same portrait – taken at least  6 or 7 years ago – still graces the main hallway.  The ladies’ restroom is actually looking a little run-down and shabby, in need of new stall doors and some updated paint (that flowery mural is looking awfully 90s!).  The Smiths used to frequently mention Mary’s hangup about church restrooms, and the priority she placed on making the Living Word ladies’ room a beautiful and luxurious place because her standards were so much higher than those of other churches.  I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe the fact that she has her own private restroom in her office has prevented her from noticing how beat-up the Nordstrom-style wooden stall doors are looking, and how the place would no longer strike most women as being particularly nice or special.

I was disappointed to note that Living Word Church no longer smells like it used to.  Maybe they quit using the same fragrant anointing oils, or maybe time has just taken its toll, but it didn’t exude the same aroma at all.

In one way, I was almost glad that I didn’t have to smell that smell that used to hold such meaning for me.  Walking through the doors of Living Word Church was an experience akin to running into an old boyfriend, a boyfriend who had broken my heart with pretenses and false promises and outright lies.

I decided to do a bit of roaming around while we waited for the event to begin.  And that’s when I noticed that the door to the church bookstore was open.  The lights were off – the bookstore was clearly closed – but the door was open.  I walked over and poked my head in the doorway and took a good look around.

My eyes quickly caught sight of the magazine rack full of the five issues of Mary Smith’s magazine.  I could see them against the wall, just a scant 10 or so feet away from the doorway where I was standing.  Oh how I wished I dared walk across the threshold and grab one, just to satisfy my now-raging curiosity!

That’s when I suddenly thought to myself, “Well, it’s now or never.”  My foot, almost of its own accord, took a tentative step toward the magazine rack.

And at that very moment, I suddenly heard a voice over my shoulder.  Startled, I turned to see none other than the church facilities manager, a man I’ll call Lin Jackson.  Lin had known my husband and me for years.  He and I had spoken many times.  We’d worked on various “Mary Events” together.

“May I help you?” Lin Jackson asked.

I was busted.

[to be continued…]


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I’ve been going through the Old Testament for my Bible reading these days.  Last night I was in the book of I Kings, in the passage where King Solomon dedicates the temple of the Lord.

That’s when I came across a couple of verses that seemed especially familiar:

When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD.  And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple.

                                                                  — I Kings 8:10-11

I realized that the reason why these verses rang a bell is because I’d heard this passage used many times as scriptural support for the practice of “falling out under the power”  – you know, what happens when a preacher “under the anointing” lays hands on someone?

As I’ve said before, since leaving Charismania, I’ve thought a lot about that whole “falling out under the power” experience.  It’s something I’m not sure I’ll ever fully come to understand.  I know that something was happening to make my knees buckle and force me to the floor when Pastor Smith (not his real name) or one of his visiting ministers placed his hands on my forehead.  I’m still just sort of mystified as to what that something was.

Was it the literal power and presence of God Almighty Himself?

Pastor Smith would have had us believe that that’s precisely what it was – that because Pastor Smith “proclaimed the Word” and had an “anointing,” he had the ability to dispense God to his audience.  He frequently referred to himself as “a conduit” of this power.

And he used I Kings 8:10-11 as scriptural support for this practice.

But here’s the thing that struck me as I read in I Kings last night:  in that passage, it is clear that when the presence of the Lord filled the temple, it was so strong and so powerful the priests themselves were rendered unable to stand.

The priests themselves were unable to maintain control of their actions.

Let’s look a little closer at what this tells us.

Something important to keep in mind is that the priests would have been highly motivated to maintain control of themselves.  No matter what your views on God’s unchangeable nature, it is a biblical fact that He appears to have interacted differently with people in the Old Testament than He interacts with us today.  In the Old Testament, people could be killed on the spot for failing to follow God’s guidelines – even if they did so accidentally.  We don’t see a whole lot of unexplained deaths these days in church.  But in Old Testament times, different guidelines seem to have applied.  In Old Testament times, people related to God through the “old covenant.”

Since that was the case, I’m thinking that the priests doing their duty in I Kings would have been highly motivated to pay attention and be sure they followed every last letter of the law.  I think they would have done all in their human power to remain standing, at full attention.

That tells us that the authentic “presence and power of the Lord” is something so strong, something so unspeakably glorious, that no one, not even the most highly motivated individual, is able to withstand it.

Yet when people “fall out under the power” in today’s Charismaniac circles, lots of people are capable of remaining in full control of themselves and their faculties.

The individual who is purportedly dispensing the “anointing” or “power” remains in full control.

And so do the “catchers,” those big guys who follow the minister and break the falls of the people being prayed for/ministered to.

Last night it struck me that this passage in I Kings absolutely does NOT provide any support for the practice of “falling out under the power” as it is practiced in Charismatic circles today.  If anything, I Kings 8:10-11 would prove the exact opposite – that whatever is causing people to fall down these days when the minister touches them simply CANNOT be the actual “power and presence of God.”

If the GENUINE power and presence of God were “in the house” (as Pastor Smith was fond of declaring), then  all human flesh would bow in response, just as the priests in this passage from I Kings were forced to do.

There would not be anyone left standing.

Not the catchers.  And certainly not the pastor himself.

It suddenly seems terribly obvious that God Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, does not manifest himself as some sort of “force” that is dispensed at the will of human beings.  The fact that Pastor Smith chose when, where, and how he’d “lay hands on people” – in other words, when, where, and how the (supposed) power of God would be dispensed – would put God at the control and mercy of Pastor Smith.

The Bible shows us that such a notion is absolutely ludicrous.

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I’ve mentioned before how we arrived at our “Charismaniac” church after a lifetime spent in more traditional Bible-based Reformed/Evangelical churches. 

I think a good part of the allure that Living Word Church (a pseudonym) had for us, at least at first, was that it WAS such a departure from what we’d grown up with.  Instead of what had seemed like the resigned, passive, and even sometimes downright negative approach to Christianity that we’d known from our youth, we loved that Pastor Smith (another pseudonym) preached, for example, that we were on the verge of greatness.  Or that we could “possess whatever we confessed.”

We loved the idea of “taking authority,” of faith that could move mountains, of healing for today, of a God whose plans are always to prosper us and keep us in good health.

When we were new to Living Word Church, we pretty much just projected everything we’d ever previously known about Christianity onto the place.  We just sort of assumed that Pastor Smith valued everything that our prior pastors had valued and held to their same standards for pastoral behavior…just with a bit of a “Charismatic kick.”  In other words, in addition to all those behaviors and character traits that the Bible attributes to a great leader – an attitude of servanthood, of kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control, humility, patience, and so forth – Pastor Smith just had that added extra “oomph” of possessing the gift of faith. 

In our wide-eyed newly Charismatic naivete, we figured that Pastor Smith was everything the Bible would say a leader should be…AND he had a direct pipeline to God, where God spoke to him directly and prophetically and had given him a special dose of miracle-working faith.

We gave his wife and the rest of the church staff and all the honored longtime members that same benefit of the doubt, too.  We thought it was just sort of a “given” that they all valued Bible knowledge, honesty, integrity, humility, and long-suffering.  After all, the fact that they all dressed fashionably and seemed to exhibit other traits of rich people didn’t automatically mean they wouldn’t exhibit other aspects of what we’d known to be Biblical Christianity.

But after we’d been at Living Word Church for awhile, we began to understand that for Pastor Smith and the rest of his “higher-ups” – which would include all the visiting celebrity pastors – regular rules for traditional Christian behavior did not always apply.

The Smiths cultivated such an air of celebrity around themselves that most of us, if we were honest, would have to confess to feeling a bit star-struck and tongue-tied on those rare occasions when they’d appear in the lobby after church.  They’d never EVER walk around the church facility alone, either.  They would always be accompanied by at least one or two members of their “security detail,” men who wore suits and walkie talkies and stood discreetly, if slightly menacingly, off to the side while we ordinary folks chatted with Pastor or Mary Smith.

People were desperately eager to please the Smiths, too.  At first I thought this was just a by-product of their “anointing.”  Later, though, I was dismayed to discover that Mary Smith in particular was known for her fits of temper if she were to be displeased by the slightest thing.  When her group of ladies would put on one of her “Mary Events” for the women’s ministry, it was always a time of extreme stress and intense pressure to get every miniscule detail exactly right.  I saw firsthand some of the most bizarre freak-outs over stuff as silly as the color and placement of napkins on tables.

After we’d been at Living Word Church for awhile – a year, maybe – and had seen for ourselves how things were, we began to understand that in Charismania, pastors and guest ministers were held to a very different standard of behavior than the simple Baptist preachers of our youth.  By virtue of their gift of faith, their “anointing,” they were special.  They were celebrities.  They did not mingle with the regular people.  They breathed a different kind of air.  They needed body guards.  They wouldn’t DREAM of serving – rather, they were to BE SERVED.  At all times.

Yesterday, a very interesting message from J. Lee Grady arrived in my email.  It was entitled, Reality Check:  The Case For Relational Christianity.  And here is how it begins:

A friend in Alabama recently told me about a preacher who came to his city in unusual style. The man arrived at a church in a limousine and was whisked into a private waiting room behind the stage area. The evangelist gave specific instructions to leave his limousine’s engine running (I guess he wasn’t concerned about rising gas prices) so that the temperature inside his car would remain constant.

This evangelist then preached to a waiting crowd, took up his own offering and retired to the waiting room for some refreshments. Then he left the church with his entourage without even speaking to the host pastor.

This guy’s “faith”—he is touted as a faith preacher—may have been inspiring, but his love was as cold as the air inside his oversized vehicle. His behavior that night represents why so many ministries today are in crisis. We’ve created a monster—a version of Christianity that is slick, marketable and event-driven but lacking in any authentic impact. It is as one-dimensional as a flat-screen TV—and a total turnoff to people who are starving for genuine relationships. 

(You can access the full article by clicking here.) 

As I read what Mr. Grady had to say about what I’d call “Charismatic attitude,” I was instantly transported back to our time at Living Word Church, reliving all those memories of the inappropriate haughtiness of the Smiths and other ministers who had passed through Living Word’s doors.  I found myself – at least at first – nodding in agreement with Mr. Grady’s “Reality Check” article.

But then I began to think of how bizarre it is that he’d even need to write such an article for the audience of his Charisma magazine in the first place.

J. Lee Grady is right in his prescriptions, in his statements about how Charismania does need a “reality check.”  But I don’t think he’s dug deeply enough.

I think there’s something inherent in Charismania itself – in the whole Charismatic movement – that has caused the crazy and totally unbiblical notion that pastors are celebrities.

I think the whole concept of “anointing” – that pastors are a cut above the “ordinary” folks because they enjoy some sort of special direct pipeline to God Himself – is what causes them to believe that they are celebrities, that they are in need of bodyguards, that they can walk around and display bad tempers and haughty attitudes…and that they need to keep themselves separate from the “ordinary” people in their audiences.  Because of their faulty theology, they really think that they have been given some special access to the Almighty God, a different and more immediate access than what all the rest of us “ordinary” Christians have.  They really believe that they somehow have God “on tap,” where they can decide when and where to dispense the “anointing” through the laying on of hands.

Is it any wonder, then, that these pastors and evangelists and ministers begin to believe in their own “giftedness,” in their own “specialness,” in their own press, so to speak?

Until the Charismatic movement deals with this unscriptural notion of “anointing,” the bad attitudes and non-relational Christianity Mr. Grady speaks of will just continue.  What he says is good.  But it only deals with the symptoms of the problem, and not the cause.

Until they dig up the roots, there’s little point in dealing with the fruits.

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I haven’t posted anything meaningful in quite awhile, mostly because I tend not to think so much anymore about our time in Charismania.  We’ve moved on and are in a good, healthy place.

But every once in awhile, something does trigger a memory, or a flash of insight.

The other night, right as I drifted off to sleep, I had such a moment.

For some reason – I have no idea why – I was remembering all those times at Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names used in this post) when people would “fall out under the power.” 

For those of you unfamiliar with the goings-on at your typical Charismaniac (hyper-Pentecostal/Charismatic/Word of Faith) church, “falling out under the power” was what happened at certain times during a church service, usually when the pastor or guest speaker would pick a person out of the audience (or prayer line) and “lay hands on” him or her.

At our particular church, this practice was frequently accompanied by the pastor’s declaring a “prophetic word” to the recipient as well, prior to the “laying on of hands.”  Typically, in what had initially seemed very spontaneous but in retrospect was probably far more orchestrated and deliberate than we’d ever imagined, Pastor Smith would, either during points in the praise-and-worship time or after his sermon, suddenly pick someone out in the crowd and stride down from the stage purposefully toward that person.  If the person were a member, someone whom Pastor Smith knew personally, he’d usually call them out by name.  If the person were a visitor, he’d point to them and say something like, “Sir?  Yes, you – you in the brown shirt.  May I pray for you?”

In our years at Living Word Church, we never saw anyone turn Pastor Smith down when he asked that question.  In fact, most people were very eager to be picked out of the crowd like that.  If you went to Living Word for any length of time, you easily picked up on the fact that those “prophetic times” – the times when Pastor Smith “ministered prophetically” to people – were the highest point of the service, the greatest thing that could ever happen to someone.  People could even get petty or jealous about the amount of times that someone “got called out.”  After all, there were folks who’d attended Living Word for years – even some people who were longtime members – who had yet to receive a “word.”  It could start to seem unfair when certain new people would get called out two or three times in one month.

Getting called out for a “word” followed something of a formula.  When we were new to Living Word, I generally believed in the authenticity of Pastor Smith’s “prophetic gifting,” and especially at the beginning, I was enthralled by the sorts of things he’d say to people when he was in his “prophetic” mode.  It wasn’t exactly what I’d have thought of as “prophecy,” in that it wasn’t particularly specific or even very predictive.  It also wasn’t much like the prophecies of the Bible, either, in that it was ALWAYS very positive.  There were never any warnings about repenting – turning away from sin – for instance, which is a typical theme of Biblical prophecy.

Pastor Smith’s prophecies were instead quite frequently about the “great blessing” the person was about to begin walking in, which at Living Word generally was understood to mean FINANCIAL blessing.  It was common for the recipient to react as though he’d just found out he’d won the lottery – there’d be lots of excited jumping around and/or praising Jesus as Pastor Smith would wrap up the prophecy, which would typically end with, “Somebody give Him a praise!”

At this point, the recipient would be caught and lowered gently to the ground by one of Pastor Smith’s “catchers,” the big, burly men who served in that highly coveted capacity and who would have unobtrusively sidled up behind the recipient while Pastor Smith was prophesying to him.

When the recipient would fall to the floor, it was understood that something supernatural and mysterious was happening to him.  Pastor Smith frequently referred to himself as a “conduit” of the “anointing,” which (I guess) was the same thing as the “manifest presence of God,” or the Holy Spirit.  We never did receive clear, coherent teachings on what, precisely, happened during these ministry times, but if you hung around Living Word long enough, you picked up on the lingo and sort of figured out what was supposed to be going on.

As Pastor Smith would shout, “Somebody give Him a praise,” the crowd would oblige enthusiastically, clapping and hooting.  Interestingly, the applause would always be louder if the person seemed to “fall out” in a particularly forceful or dramatic fashion.

“Falling out under the power” could happen in another context, too, which was the prayer line.  This didn’t occur terribly often, but maybe once a month on a Sunday night, Pastor Smith would decide to “pray for people.”  Like a well-oiled machine, the ushers and catchers would direct us to file out of our pews and snake around into a line that led up to the front.  Then they’d place us into position, lined up across the front of the sanctuary.  Pastor Smith would pass back and forth in front of the line, praying in tongues loudly and moving from one person to the next, momentarily placing his hands on the person’s forehead.  “Falling out under the power” was not such a practically guaranteed outcome in this setting, like it was when an individual was “pulled out” and received a personal word.  But it probably did happen to at least 50% of the people whom Pastor Smith prayed for in these prayer lines.

Sometimes a third variation would occur, when Pastor Smith would pause, motion for the music to get quieter, and then would begin to prophesy personally to an individual in the prayer line.  When Smith would go to “lay hands on” the person after delivering the “word,” that person typically WOULD “fall out.”

Because of the need for expediency – after all, even the thinned-out Sunday night crowds were still fairly large, with sometimes as many as 500 people – those who did “fall out” in the prayer line were not permitted to lie on the floor for very long before being helped to their feet by one of the catchers. 

But it was still understood that we were RECEIVING something from Pastor Smith during those times…

Again, we weren’t taught clearly and specifically WHAT we were receiving, but we easily absorbed the notion that God did something to us through Pastor Smith, and that it happened while we were lying down on the floor, after Pastor Smith had touched us.  This practice was one of the things that set our church apart from the inferior “dead” churches out there.  It was one of the main ways that we were “ministered to.”

Of all the things that have puzzled me as I look back on my experiences in Charismania, I have to say that “falling out under the power” is still the one that remains the most mysterious.

The other night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was once again puzzling over what the whole thing meant.  In the way that one’s thoughts go as one is in that twilight zone between waking and sleeping, here were the random observations that floated in and out of my brain…

We see no instances of “falling out” happening in the Bible, at least nothing remotely resembling the way that it was done at Living Word Church.  Yes, there are places in the Bible where we can read about people trembling in fear at the manifest presence of God and falling on their faces before Him, even (apparently) seeming to temporarily lose consciousness.  But I’ve never been able to find a single instance in Scripture where a man of God (like the Apostle Paul, or Timothy, or one of the disciples) behaved like a physical “conduit” of God’s power, where he would touch a recipient and the recipient would fall backward.

We certainly can find no instructions to the church about doing these ministry times.  I mean, you’d think that if “falling out under the power” were such a crucial way to nourish and serve God’s people, it would have received at least a few verses of teaching somewhere in the New Testament.  But there’s nothing.  Even the verses that do mention the “laying on of hands” say NOTHING about “falling out under the power” and lying on the floor afterward.  There’s NOTHING about receiving something specific or particular from the Holy Spirit during these times on the floor.

But the biggest thing that struck me the other night, as I thought about all this once again, was this:  the applause. 

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit’s main role is to direct people’s attention to Jesus.  Therefore, it would logically follow that if this whole “falling out under the power” thing actually IS the Holy Spirit in action, it would serve to glorify Jesus and make people focus on Him.

But in all honesty, I have to say that that did NOT seem to be the outcome of this practice, at least not at Living Word Church.

At Living Word, when someone “fell out under the power,” I don’t really think that Jesus was thought about all that much.

Instead, the recipient of MOST of the attention seemed to be whichever person had performed the “laying on of hands.”  Even though Pastor Smith was very diligent about telling his audience to give God praise, I never felt like the applause that would follow these times of ministry was actually about God.  It always felt like it was much more a way for the audience to express their awe at how the ministering pastor had just done something to the recipient of the “word.” 

The natural reaction of the people seemed like it was to be impressed with the pastor’s (or visiting minister’s) amount of “anointing,” which was assessed by how forcefully the recipient of the “laying on of hands” had “fallen out,” and how long that person had remained unconscious on the floor.  By default, our attention was not so much on God Himself (Jesus).  Our attention was on the dramatic act of the person’s falling down on the ground, and on the pastor who had touched the person and therefore had caused this dramatic thing to happen.  Looking back, I can even remember how certain visiting ministers were particularly revered for the number of people they “pulled out,” and for how powerful these people’s time on the floor had been to them.

And the recipient – the person who “fell out” – basically received whatever attention the audience had left to give, after they’d applauded at the pastor’s behest.  It was not uncommon for the recipient to be congratulated after the service.  Sometimes, people would even seem to be a bit in awe of the recipient, almost as though they were hoping that some of the “anointing” that the recipient had received would rub off on them.

I have to say that whatever “falling out under the power” actually WAS, it did feel really good.  I was never the recipient of a “personal word” from Pastor Smith, but I “fell out” more than a few times in the prayer line.  Sometimes it was quite powerful, like a jolt of electricity had hit me and my knees buckled.  I’d fall to the floor and be in a sort of zoned-out frame of mind, although I certainly remained fully conscious.  I can remember plenty of times where my mind would be pleasurably blank as I fell, and yet I’d still be aware enough of myself that I’d tug on my blouse to make sure that my stomach hadn’t gotten exposed as I’d fallen.

Also, I can’t really say that anything changed in me during those times that I “fell out.”  If I’m going to be brutally honest, I’d have to say that I always felt just a teensy bit disappointed after each of these experiences. 

I’d return to my seat, sometimes feeling quite befuddled and almost dazed, pretty convinced that whatever had knocked me to the floor had been something from God…


Something deep down inside of me sort of knew that if it HAD been God who’d knocked me to the ground, I was still the one at least somewhat in charge of my faculties.  After all, I’d have the presence of mind to adjust my clothing.  (And I wasn’t the only one – I often noticed other ladies doing that very same thing!)  And ultimately, I was ALWAYS able to get up off the ground when I wanted to or was told to by the ushers.

If what had knocked me to the ground was God Himself, it had to be a very watered-down version of God, because my own human will was able to overcome the effects of the “knocking-down” power.

Which brings up another interesting thought:  after being at Living Word for awhile, I had to admit that whatever it was that happened to people while they lay on the floor, it didn’t seem to have very lasting effects in their lives.

Among the regulars who “fell out,” we all seemed to pretty much remain as we had always been.  I don’t know that any of us went forth and lived holier lives, or more actively loved others, or exhibited more patience, or more faith, or did any of the dramatic things that Pastor Smith frequently declared would happen (such as seeing people we touched be instantly healed, or walking into a room and having so much anointing on us that people would burst into tears at our mere presence and demand to pray to accept Christ, without our ever having to utter a word).

And sadly, among the visitors, or more “transient” folks who were prayed for and “fell out,” I think we saw even fewer lasting results.  I can only speak of the folks whom I personally knew, of course, but off the top of my head I can remember several people who attended Living Word for a month or two, people who had major issue with stuff like drug use.  I can picture one gal in particular who got prayed for and “fell out” dramatically.  She disappeared from Living Word about a month after that dramatic moment, only to return maybe a year later, still entrapped in all the same problems she’d always had.


While the practice of “falling out under the power” was something that felt good, and while I still have no real explanation for the jolt of electricity that I myself experienced from time to time, a jolt so powerful that it knocked me backward and made me fall to the ground, I have to say that I’ve come to the following conclusions.

  • I don’t think the practice can be clearly or directly supported by anything in the Bible.
  • I don’t think the jolt of power is God Himself, or else we humans wouldn’t be so easily able to overcome its effects.
  • Moreover, if the jolt IS from God, then that would mean that God is putting Himself at the mercy of fallible guys like Pastor Smith, who then control when and where and how they dispense God to their people.  Ultimately, that would make Pastor Smith and his visiting ministers in charge of God, rather than the other way around.
  • I never saw any lasting positive effects of the practice.  If anything, it seemed to create a cycle in people of just hungering for more of the same.  Sometimes I got the distinct impression that Pastor Smith was fully aware of this, because he seemed to dole out those prayer times judiciously, doing it just enough to maintain attendance.  After all, he could always ensure a much larger Sunday night crowd if he announced in advance that he’d be “praying for people” (which almost always meant that there’d be an opportunity to “fall out”).
  • The practice seems to take attention AWAY from Jesus and what He accomplished for us through His death and resurrection.  Instead, “falling out under the power” directs people’s attention to the person performing the “laying on of hands,” as well as to the recipient of said hands.

I can’t say that I’ve yet reached a definite conclusion about what that whole experience actually was.  It’s possible – faintly possible – that when I arrive in heaven someday and get to ask Jesus about this, Jesus will tell me that yes, this whole thing was something He wanted for His church, and that yes, He actually DID “minister” to people through it.

But I have to say that this would surprise me.

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One of the strangest (and most unbiblical) things about our particular experience with “Charismania” was the odd dynamic that swirled around the pastors of Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are most other names on this website).  Within the world that they’d created inside the walls of Living Word, the Smith family – Pastor Smith, his wife Mary, and their two young-adult sons, Timmy and Tommy – were treated like royalty. 

We’d come to Living Word Church after a lifetime spent in more mainstream Bible-based churches, where it was a given that pastors were supposed to be unassuming “servant leaders.”   So when we first arrived at Living Word, we were oblivious to the aura of celebrity that surrounded the Smiths. 

It took awhile for us to fall in line and acclimate ourselves to Living Word’s hierarchy, but eventually we learned how things were.  And despite how we always KNEW, at some level, that the Smith family’s belief in their own importance was completely unbiblical and inappropriate, we soon found ourselves going right along with the crowd who swirled around them, vying for their attention and approval.  It really did not take very long for it to seem almost NORMAL to us that there was an entire “ministry” built around providing security for the Smith family as they walked around the church building.  Or that it was considered a HIGH HONOR to open the door of Pastor Smith’s $85,000 Mercedes as his handlers hustled him out of the building and into his car.

Eventually, we realized that the people who were the closest to the Smith family – ESPECIALLY the people who handled the most mundane details of their lives – exhibited a real attitude about their proximity to the Smiths. 

I happened to be reading a random website – a website about a subject that on the surface has nothing to do with the world of “Charismania” – when I came across a really amazing comment that describes to a “T” the dynamic that was at work at Living Word Church.  I want to post that comment here, as I believe it provides a good summary of the attitudes at work within many independent “Charismaniac” churches, not just Living Word.

Here is the comment, by “Cindy K” (who has her own website here):

I would completely discount this as true if I had not heard and seen these things in the shepherding movement (the charismatic movement that got started about the same time that Bill Gothard started to get cranked up in the mid to late ’60s). We had a close friend at one time who was on the list to have the privilege of washing Bob Mumford’s car. The more holiness you have and the more submissive you are, the more deeply you can penetrate into the inner circle of leaders and the more intimate duties you are permitted to perform for them. So scrubbing the toilet for Bob Mumford is a far higher and more lofty duty than just washing the car. I actually talked on the phone with someone who left a sister church of my group whose father actually got to pick Bob Mumford up at the airport.

This is all a very big part of submission teaching, and in terms of this aspect and dynamic, Gothard and Mumford and some of these patriocentrists ascribe to the same mindset.  Gothard teaches that if you want to have your own vision, the way to make that grow comes through serving others in their mission. So the more humble you are, the more grace you get (like God puts money in an account or you get grace warm fuzzies to counter all those sin cooties).  The more selfless you are in your service, the more benefit you gain.  If you are asked to wipe someone’s bum because they are too lazy to do it themselves or if they are actually taking pleasure in the fact that they can get you to do it, this is a test of your virtue.  Submission, submission, submission.  It is seen as an act of piety that builds your character in a direct cause and effect manner. 

But what’s interesting is that no one is interested in scrubbing the toilet of the aging, obese woman who had a stroke and drools, who is seated in the back row and when she comes for prayer or to ask for critical help is patted on the head and told to be warmed, filled and to go in peace.  The ministry efforts are directed primarily toward the elders and leaders in a group, because it is a type of validation and reinforcement of your own importance.  Consider that this is like a drug, because you are in an environment of comparison as well as one where shame is used to motivate.  It is more satisfying than a glass of cool water on the hottest summer day because it medicated the pains of comparison and shame.

People in these groups are overridden with shame, and gaining the favor of the elite is a most powerful neurochemical drug.  It also feeds pride, because you are more special than the other people who can’t even get on the waiting list to wash the car, let alone scrub the toilet.  But sometimes, if there is a favorite of the group, one that the group can hold up a non-normative they would like people to minister to – a pet project.  Because it is seen as a virtue and is counted as virtuous by the leadership, attending to the particular non-normative who has been set apart by the leaders will also earn you bonus points with them. 

They ALWAYS have their favorites.  You might not get to wash the car of the leader, but you might be able to get on the list to wash the car of their pet project.  And think about it.  They have set themselves up in a hierarchy and established themselves as the visionaries who speak for God and discern His thoughts in ways that normal people cannot even begin to attain.  Where would we be without Doug Phillips? We would have no one championing the family and the world would be a sad, sad place.  If you want more than anything to honor and serve God in all the wonder and fullness that you can dream of, this is alluring. 

If you believe their press, they hold out this fantasy for you.  They create it with smoke and mirrors, and if you want that fantasy, there it is.  You might not get to experience the awesome power and holiness and greatness of God, but you can perhaps glean something from the crumbs that fall from God’s table of greatness.  I’ve heard people describe this as like unto those sick who took strips of Paul’s clothing to the sick so that the power of the Holy Spirit that remained on the cloth would heal them.  [Charismania here:  I want to point out that Living Word Church actually did have what they called an “Anointing and Handkerchief Service” each year, where they would distribute “anointed” hankies and vials of oil that had been prayed over by Pastor Smith and other guest speakers.  Living Word Church actually had that passage from the book of Acts – the passage that describes how strips of Paul’s clothing were distributed for healing – printed on the hankies.  Also, I myself  once wrote a post about a funny thing that happened to us during the final prayer line during that “Handkerchief Service.”  These things dovetail perfectly with what Cindy K is saying in this comment!]  You might have a Holy Ghost experience by washing the very car that Bob Mumford actually touched and sat in.  You might get a Holy Ghost jolt when you scrub the…

Don’t forget that Gothard teaches this.  To have vision you must first experience the death of a vision, and then you work toward your vision by serving someone else in their vision.  When God finds you faithful and you earn enough grace points and warm fuzzies, you win the prize – you get your own vision, and volunteers will in turn come to serve you as you aspire toward your very own vision. 

This is all Gothard.  It was all over Shepherding.  It is a twist on being faithful over little so that God will make you faithful over your own greatness.  By serving others greatness, God will eventually make you great.  It’s all part of the formula.

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Pastor Smith is still at it.  He’s still preaching what amounts to a “different gospel.”

I don’t know why this surprises me.  We’re a few months shy of the two-year anniversary of our leaving Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names mentioned in this post), and every time I check in and listen to a Pastor Smith sermon on iTunes, he’s still saying essentially the same stuff.  He’s still prophesying “great financial overflow” and a “great end-times harvest” for Living Word.  He’s still giving sermons based mostly on Old Testament passages and random New Testament verses plucked completely out of context.  He’s still teaching heavily on tithing. 

I’m not sure why this continual focus on money at Living Word continues to surprise me.  After all, we left because we had little hope that Pastor Smith would quit preaching the “Prosperity Gospel.”  We were pretty sure that he probably wouldn’t embrace more Biblical teachings anytime soon.  Otherwise, we would not have moved on.  So it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to think that somehow he’d have a sudden change of heart almost two years later.

But I guess I continue to harbor hope that things at Living Word might shift back to the Bible and the truth.  After all, if several years pass and Pastor Smith’s prophecies have not yet been fulfilled, you’d think that maybe he’d eventually shift his focus off of great financial overflow and onto the true good news of Christ…especially if many people in his congregation have recently lost a lot of money in the stock market. 

I was very curious to listen to his most recent sermon available on iTunes, a sermon delivered just after the last rotten week on Wall Street.  Pastor Smith HAD been preaching a series about a “prophetic word” that the Lord had supposedly given him recently – about how the “drought” was broken and that soon, economic “dry times” were going to be replaced by a season of “much rain” (or in other words, much money). 

Considering that just about all the economic news in recent days has been bad news, I was wondering how Pastor Smith would reconcile that recent sermon series with what by all accounts is the simple harsh reality of life for most people.  Would he dig deeper and proclaim for his congregation that the true Gospel, the true “Good News,” is about more than money?  Would he offer them REAL hope – a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us – in the face of discouraging economic news?

Unfortunately, the answer to those questions is a big fat “NO.”  In his most recent sermon, Pastor Smith simply hunkered down and dug his heels even more deeply into the “prosperity gospel.”  I almost could not believe my ears as I listened.  I found what he said to be so outrageous, and so full of subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – deceptions that I decided to transcribe the entire thing. 

Yes, I know this is very long, but for your consideration, here is an exact transcript of what Pastor Smith preached to the congregation of Living Word Church a couple of weeks ago (my comments, where I can’t refrain from making them, will appear in blue):


And I want you to get your Bibles, I want you to go to I Kings the eighteenth chapter and uh, first kings the eighteenth chapter, and the seventeenth verse.  And I’m not gonna read the whole segment, I’m gonna read 3 or 4 verses to you to save some time, and then I’ll refer to some other verses as I progress on.

In I Kings 18 verse 17, it says,

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?

And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim.

Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table.

So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.

And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.

I want you, you to be seated.  A few weeks ago, and – I really want to approach this message that I’m getting ready to preach to you, uh, not in a serious or boring kind of way, but with a seriousness.  I’m getting ready to deliver some things to you that he that hath an ear, let him hear.  Because I am well aware of the gravity of what is happening in our nation.  My head is not stuck in the sand.  And I listen to it from the conservative side, the liberal side, I, uh, I’m listening to it as I talk to people in my circle of relationships that are involved in the banking industry, uh, the stock market, uh, in, in, massive business developments and things like this.  And so, before I get into this today, I want you to understand, I’m not living on some little faith island that says I have no reality check of what is happening to the left hand and to the right hand.  How many understand that on an economic level, America is in some serious times?  I wanna say something to you, and I don’t want you to receive it, I don’t want you to receive it in just an evangelistic, emotional way.


Now, you say, “Pastor, there’s just absolutely – the stock market hit lows like it has never hit in the history of the stock market since the Depression, we are seeing things happening, shifts, uh, the, the, rescue or bail-out plan, whichever we want to call it, doesn’t seem to be impacting the economy the way that it should.  Fear and panic selling is at an all-time high on the stock market.  We have got some deep trouble.

Now for me not to acknowledge that would prove that I am ignorant.  And I am not ignorant.  But I want you to understand something, when there was no evidence of breakthrough, and when there was no evidence of anything shifting or anything changing, the prophet said, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain.”

Now ladies and gentlemen, we are facing some times that can have a trickle-down impact – and probably “trickle” is not an appropriate word – a flow-down impact that impacts every sector of society.  But I don’t know why God spoke to me the way that He did.  Because back on the last day of August, technically, uh, earmarking the first day of September before any of this stuff begin to happen, the Spirit of the Lord spoke something to me.  He said, “Over the next hundred days, you will see some of the most unprecedented things happen.” 

Some of you never come to Sunday night services, so I have to relay some things that God speaks prophetically in that service.  And God begin to prophesy to us that over the next one hundred days, we would see unprecedented things begin to happen.  We would see legislations that we never thought would be passed.  And – and – and – and – the Lord prefaced in, in the prophecy, this does not have to do with the election, this has to do with the circumstantial surroundings of your nation.  And, but the Lord told us in that word not to be afraid.  He told us in that word that He would make a way where there seemed to be no way.  Now all of a sudden – this is before the 778 point drop that hit, because God begin to speak to me, then, the drought was broken.  So I go and plow in and say, “Let’s preach a series on this.”  So when I preached the first part of it, “I hear the sound of an abundance of rain,” the next day the stock market falls 778 points. 

Y’say, “Pastor, you just missed it.”  No I didn’t miss it.  Cuz you’ve gotta understand something.  There are words in season, and then there are words out of season.  Y’say, “What do you mean by that?”  When you are standing here today, we are in the fall of the year, but how many understand, the next season is winter.  And then the season after that is spring, and then the season after that is summer.  God spoke a word out of due season.  And that word specifically said to you, “I’m going to break this drought.”  [Charismania says:  Let’s just assume that Pastor Smith “heard” correctly, and God really did speak this “word” to him.  I’m curious to know why Pastor Smith automatically assumes that an “abundance of rain” MUST mean an abundance of MONEY or financial security?]

Now the Holy Ghost begin to deal with me about some things.  And – I’ve gotta lay the groundwork here because I think sometimes people think preachers just preach things to stir people up.  Oh, I like to stir you up, but I got a whole lot more substance than I do style.  [Charismania says:  I find it interesting that Pastor Smith makes statements like this one.  To me, this particular sermon is hugely lacking in substance and is MOSTLY about “stirring people up.”  I can’t help but think that Pastor Smith has GOT to know this.  He’s GOT to be aware that this message is nearly devoid of Scriptural backing and any serious exposition of God’s Word.  So the question becomes, is he willfully deceiving his audience with this statement?] 

The Lord begin to deal with me about something.  He said, “If America in the church will believe me, I will honor their seed.”  And a lot of you are always sowing seed as individuals believing God for personal harvest, which there’s nothing wrong with that, but all of a sudden the Lord begin to let me see the collective seed of the American church.  Now I’m not talking about, uh, all the little – uh, those, those things are factoring what the heart and the kindness of our nation and the Christianity of our nation of things that happen with organizations like Red Cross, ek-cetra, ek-cetra.  But the Lord begin to deal with me, He said, “If my people will not allow the spirit of fear to grab hold of them and walk in faith, I will honor their seed and I will reverse the curse.”  [Charismania says:  Does anybody else find it fascinating – like I do – that Pastor Smith claims that “God” is telling him that “sowing seed” (which of course means giving money) is a condition for “reversing the curse”?  Or, in other words, that if people want the stock market to rebound and the financial news to get better, they must keep donating?]


Y’say, “Pastor, things are tough.”  I know that.  But I’ve gotta, I gotta talk to you from the Holy Spirit.  Cuz you are hearing every other voice speak to you about doom and gloom, despair, defeat, you’re gonna lose it all, everything’s going under, your retirement plans are gonna be destroyed, the futures of your businesses are gonna be impacted, and the Lord keeps speaking to me, “I hear a sound of an abundance of rain.”  I hear something through the Spirit.  This is not some hot flash nor cold chill.  God has begun to speak, and He said, “I am going to examine the seed of the nation.  And because this nation has not been afraid to sow seed to preach the gospels in the darkest corners of the world, I will not withhold my hand of blessing.”  [Charismania says:  A part of me wants to buy what Pastor Smith is peddling here.  But another part of me, the part that knows the Bible pretty well, would have to ask WHY.  And WHERE.  Where in the Bible would we ever find such a promise, that if we give money to religious organizations, that will automatically mean that God will give US “financial overflow”?  Did the Apostle Paul or any of the other disciples experience such a “hand of blessing” – in terms of finances – anywhere in the New Testament? 

This is the danger, when we equate “God’s hand of blessing” with financial prosperity – because we do not see such outcomes in the New Testament church.  We have no Biblical record of the early Christians’ having hugely successful businesses or amassing great wealth because they preached the Gospel or supported ministries that preached the Gospel.  The true message of Christ initially brought those early Christians great trials. 

If a drop in the stock market could cause Pastor Smith to believe his audience is questioning whether or not he’d actually heard from God when he gave them the prophecy about “the sound of much rain,” then getting driven underground or being fed to the lions would certainly not jive with Pastor Smith’s definition of prosperity (“much rain”) that he seems to think God has promised. 

So to me, the question becomes, why should we ever believe that the lifestyle consequences of coming to faith in Christ would be so utterly different now than they were in the New Testament?  I wish Pastor Smith would explain how the Bible – particularly the New Testament – supports the notion that a “strong economy” is our right as Christians these days, when the early church suffered so much persecution.  For a pastor who often gets the crowd shouting with proclamations about how “God never changes” (when he’s wanting support for the notion of miracles as an everyday occurrance, or for speaking in tongues), I’m curious about how he can reconcile why God would make life for today’s Christians so much easier than He did for the early church.] 

You say, “Pastor, listen, we have got a problem, that this is hap -”

Listen.  Understand.  The root of all evil is the love of money.  [Charismania says:  I would dearly love to hear how Pastor Smith defines what it means to “love” money…and what it looks like to NOT “love” money.  We were faithful members of Living Word Church for several years, and I can say that in all that time, we were never taught anything other than that “God’s blessings” ultimately equaled financial success. 

We were taught to seek after financial success.  Financially successful people in the congregation were singled out for honor and leadership.  We were taught that our pastor NEEDED to live in a luxurious mansion and drive top-of-the-line $80,000 vehicles, because if he did not lead a moneyed lifestyle, we would not have someone modeling for us what it meant to live in “blessing.”

Living Word folks were specifically TAUGHT to love money and to think that it’s always better to have MORE money.  Therefore,  I think it is especially confusing for Pastor Smith to quote this verse without further explanation.]   

Uh, you think I’ve just been talking, but I’ve been going right back to where I’m starting at.  Ahab comes in.  He said, “You’re the one that’s troubling Israel.”  And the prophet looks right back at him and says, “I’m not causing any trouble.  The reason we’re in the mess we’re in is because of the ineptitude of leadership and the immorality and the paganism that you have brought to this nation.” 

When I think about keys to you breaking your drought?  I wanna say this to you.  You got to confront the source of the drought.  [Charismania says:  OK, it is pretty clear, here, that Pastor Smith most definitely considers this “drought” to be about a lack of financial prosperity.  In the following 2 paragraphs, he goes on to muse about what is NOT the “source of the drought,” and it’s ALL financial in nature.  I point this out because there really can now be no doubt that the “much rain” Smith mentions in his original prophecy must mean “much money.”]  Now, you’d say, “Well, the Republicans did it.”  Depends on what political party you like.  If you’re a Democrat, it’s all the Republicans’ fault.  And if you’re a Republican, it’s all the Democrats’ fault.  Cuz really doesn’t have anything to do with all the political spin we put on everything, it just depends on who you’re listening to.  Because if you listen to CNN, it’s all the Republicans’ fault.  If you listen to Fox News, it’s all the Democrats’ fault.  If you listen to our liberal, uh, broadcasters, it – it – it’s President Bush and the Republicans’ fault.  If you listen to our conservative broadcasters, it’s all the Democrats’ fault because they didn’t at –

Really, everybody kinda screwed up here.  Believe me, there’s enough blame to pass around to every party and every faction of the Senate, Congress, and the Executive level.  Believe me, nobody’s hands are clean in the mess that we’re in.  Now, get this.  But understand something.  This isn’t about flesh.  No, now I’m gonna go spiritual today because you have had enough carnal hurled at you.  I’m gonna go spiritual on you right now.  What is sweeping our nation right now is a spirit of panic and fear.  It was the same spirit that swep our nation at nine eleven, and when they hit those towers at nine eleven, and, and the World Trade Centers clapsed, it was not just the fear of a terrorist attack, it was the fear of our whole economic structure and what happened, the economy went into the tank.  Real estate went into the tank.  Wall Street went into the tank, Main Street went into the tank.  Why?  Because fear spread throughout the nation.

What is fear, fear is a spirit.  It’s not an emotional knee-jerk reaction, it is a spirit.  You have got highly educated intelligent people making irrational moves at the helms of companies, people selling off stocks at bargain basement prices when in their head they ought to know there will be a rebound, what’s happening?  Fear is infecting our nation.  Fear is a spirit.  You wanna take your time pointing your fingers at Bush, at the Republicans, at the Democrats, at the Congress, at the Senate, I’m going to the source of the problem, and I believe it’s about time for the church to rise up and take authority over the spirit of fear and over the spirit of the devourer.  [Charismania says:  I can sort of agree with Pastor Smith as he speaks about the “spirit of fear.”  But WHY are people so afraid?  WHY are people selling off stocks out of fear?  Don’t they sell because they are operating out of greed – rooted in fear – that they won’t get as much money for their stocks if they postpone selling for another day or even another hour?  And aren’t people afraid BECAUSE they are putting their faith in money? 

Wouldn’t true faith in God demonstrate itself in the idea that EVEN IF THE ECONOMY FAILS EVERYWHERE IN THE WORLD, God’s truth will still prevail, God will still take care of His children, and His name will still be glorified?]

[audience applauds and cheers]

Y’say, “Pastor, the economy of our nation is at stake.”  You are right.  And the economy of the world is at stake.  Because every other stock market in the world is being impacted by the impacting of what we are seeing happening.  The stock market in Brazil is down, the stock market in the Asian markets is down, the European stock markets are down.  Everybody is in what?  A panic.

And who’s gonna rise up while the devil is running herd?  In realms and in ways that all these brilliant folks don’t understand? 

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

[audience applauds and cheers]

[Charismania says:  Here we get at the heart of what is wrong with Pastor Smith’s message.  And that is that while yes, an economic meltdown is a terrible thing, who is to say that a “strong economy” is ALWAYS God’s will for His people?  Why is a strong economy evidence of God’s blessing?  Isn’t the whole message of the Gospel that life is about more than this world?  That eternal life is more important than any measure of financial success?]

Say now, you’re gonna have to turn off your logic right now, and you’re gonna have to start hearing not with these ears, but your inner ear.  The prophet said, “I know, I know who the source of this famine is, and it’s not me.  It’s you.”  The first thing you’re gonna have to do if you want to see – cuz I believe God can give you harvest if nobody else wants it, you can get your harvest.  If nobody else’s business wants to trust God, I believe you can trust God and somehow some way, as the Word said, “I will make a way in the wilderness and a stream to flow in the desert.”  Said, “I will bring a pool out of parched ground.”  We have got parched ground, we have a desert right now.  We have a wilderness right now, and what are we gonna do?  [Charismania says:  So would Pastor Smith then say that the New Testament church, with all its trials and persecution and economic instability, was also a “desert,” a “parched ground”?  How, then, did the Christian faith ever get off the ground?  Why did the Gospel spread, if financial hard times are a “wilderness”?]  Are we gonna lay down and die, or are we gonna rise up and fight?  I’m not talking about a letter to Senator So-and-So, I’m talking about shutting the prayer closet door and rebuking the devourer.  Every time you tithe, every time you give, you rebuke the devourer.  When you go into your prayer closet, wise up in the Holy Spirit and say, “You foul devouring source that is trying to suck my career, my business, my investments under, I take authority over you in the name of Jesus of Nazareth!”

[crowd cheers]

Y’say, “There’s a drought.  There can’t be blessing in the drought.”  Do you realize Egypt prospered more in the drought  than they did in the seven years of plenty.  Why?  Because one man had the ear of – had an ear to hear what the Spirit was saying.  One man named Joseph could hear what the Holy Ghost was saying, and the Holy Ghost said, “I’ll preserve this nation if you will do these things.”  [Charismania says:  I am quite suspicious here that with this segue, Pastor Smith is attempting to promote himself and his prophetic ability.  I could be wrong – I hope that I am wrong – but I distinctly sense in this statement that Pastor Smith is trying to plant the idea in his listeners that because he himself, like Joseph, is “one man who has an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying,” then THEY, like Egypt, will “prosper in the drought.”]

Now, I’m not expecting some atheist businessman to get this.  I’m not expecting some agnostic or some mind-over-matter, “I am so intelligent, I am so intellectual, I am so educated, I know everything about everything.”  Those kind of people don’t never grab anything because they are so – excuse me – so doggone analytical, intellectual, that they can’t move in faith.  These are the times when God shows up!  [Charismania says:  One thing that we heard again and again during our years at Living Word Church was a complete disdain for analytical thought.  It was only after we left that it suddenly occurred to me that the BIBLE never teaches such disdain.  So I had to ask myself, if Scripture does not mock analytical thought – as long as such thinking begins with the fear of the Lord and is renewed in Christ Jesus – then it’s likely that there’s another, less Christian, reason for Pastor Smith to continually put down human thinking skills.  It’s now my suspicion that Pastor Smith discourages analytical thinking, because without such a total suspension of logic, his church people would be able to see through the manipulation inherent in the “Prosperity Gospel.”]

You say, “Well, those guys, they run their companies in the ground and get a sixty million dollar parachute.”  Get your mind off that STUFF!  What you need to get focused on right now is, if God is in you, and faith is in you, you may make thirty, forty thousand dollars a year, and what you’re believing for is that your company stays functioning to where you have a job in 2009.  Or you may have a company that generates millions and tens of millions of dollars and you are concerned about how you’re gonna navigate through the transition of this moment.  Or you may be somebody that sales is your resource.  That you’ve got to get out there in the marketplace and you’ve got to sell your product if you’re gonna earn a living.  Are you following what I’m saying?  It hits the blue collar, it hits the white collar.  It hits the business owner, it hits the employee.  It hits the middle income bracket, it hits the upper income bracket.  But somewhere, God is looking for a people – “I sought for a man that would stand in the gap and would make up the hedge.”  And in, that day, He said, “But I found none.”  But I believe that right here, in this room, there is a people that will stand in the gap and make up the hedge.  [Charismania says:  When God was looking for people to “stand in the gap and make up the hedge,” was God REALLY referring to people who would go out and have a positive attitude about their workplaces?  Is THAT what “standing in the gap” means?] 

[audience claps and cheers]

[Pastor Smith mimics a listener, as he says,] “Now what are you trying to do, rally the troops?”  Well, I sure don’t want you to wave a white flag of surrender. 

I sure don’t want you to throw up your hands and say, “Because Anderson Cooper said something, I’m giving up.”  I don’t want you to git all bent out of shape because of Katie Couric.  I don’t want you to git all bent out of shape cuz you’re afraid because somebody said this or that, that that is the end-all.  I believe we’ve heard a sound of an abundance of rain, and we’d better take what God’s saying!

[audience claps and cheers]

Say, “You just, uh, you just live in your little religious world.”  Listen.  This church operates through the tithe and the offerings of people.  If you don’t have no money, you don’t have no tithe.  I know that’s a shock.  If all of sudden I come out here one week later, and fifty percent of my church is unemployed, you think the resources are going up?  I mean in the natural, no.  But do you think I’m gonna wave the white flag and say, “We’re done”?  [Charismania says:  Isn’t there some middle ground between “waving the white flag” and attempting to boost people’s confidence in their rosy economic future (by trumpeting the supposed upcoming “abundance of rain”)? 

Wouldn’t Living Word’s people be better served if Pastor Smith were to bring a TRUE word of encouragement, by going back to what the Bible has to say about money?  Wouldn’t it be better, and more Scriptural, to exhort the people with a different message, that EVEN WHEN WE LOSE EVERYTHING FINANCIALLY, we can still have the joy of our salvation?] 

Now, if I wouldn’t a heard what I heard from God, back before all this happen, I might be a little edgy right now.  Now – he said, “I know where the trouble’s from.  I know where the trouble is from in this issue.”  The Bible says He will rebuke the devourer for your sakes. 

The Bible tells us that as He rebukes the devourer, that your fruit basically is not gonna perish.  Read Malachi, it’s not just talking about you giving tithe, it’s talking about what God will do for you if you do it.  And I may not get off of this point, I’ve got several keys to this thing and I may have to preach the rest of it later, but I gotta get this through to you.  We have got to rise up as the salt of the earth and go to wear.  We’ve gotta fight for the salvation of the economy of our nation. 

Oh, I know, I’m just getting’ right down to – you know why?  Cuz that’s what all your minds are on.  [Charismania says:  But would the Bible say that it’s RIGHT for everyone’s minds to be dwelling on the bad economy?  Wouldn’t the Bible instead instruct God’s people to focus their attention on God Himself, and not the economy?  If Pastor Smith really is God’s mouthpiece – i.e., a “prophet” – then why is he delivering a message that he admits is a reaction to people’s preoccupation with economic news (a preoccupation that is NOT Scriptural)?  Wouldn’t a true prophet instead first base his message upon what the Bible has to say, rather than just upon what’s on people’s carnal minds?]  Don’t kid me.  Unless you got fifty million dollars stuck in a sock someplace, you’re probably concerned about what the next six months is gonna bring.  And I’m telling you something, the next thing that he said, “I know, I know, I know who the source is, and I know who the source is.”  Because fear is ruling our nation right now.  George Bush isn’t running the country, the Senate in’t running the country.  Congress in’t running the country, the Democrats and the Republicans, the Libertarians, the Independents aren’t running the country, FEAR is running our country right now.  Fear is running the markets, fear is running Main Street and Wall Street, fear is infecting believers in business and unbelievers in business.  Now if fear is a spirit – they want to convince you it’s an emotion, and it’s not an emotion, it’s a spirit if the Word is true.  If fear is a spirit, then how do you deal with an unclean spirit.  You take authority over it.

[crowd claps]

Now you don’t need – I don’t need one person prayin’.  We have got to rise up in the Holy Ghost.  In your prayer closet at home, in your – in our corporate prayer time – in, when you’re drivin’ down the street, when you flip on the news, and they begin to tell you this and that and the other, cuz I’m the same way as you are.  I have been saying, “God, you tell me you’re gonna break the drought.  I preach it and then it gets worse.”  And then I go to Dallas and preach it and we have the worst week in the history of the stock – I said, “God, am I losing my mind?”  And the Lord said, “Did you hear a sound from heaven?”  And I’ve got to say to you, you may crucify me three months from now, but I’m tellin’ you something, DON’T PANIC.  GOD’S GONNA MAKE A WAY WHERE THERE SEEMS TO BE NO WAY…FOR HIS PEOPLE!

[Charismania says:  So essentially, the encouragement that Pastor Smith gives his people is that they should not be fearful about the economy because God is going to turn things around economically. 

Is this REALLY what the Bible promises us?  Is God’s economic provision/intervention the main message of hope in His Word?]

[crowd cheers and claps]

He tells Ahab – teek shanda la bo ko sah tie [Pastor Smith interrupts himself with a sudden flood of speaking in tongues here] – he said, “Get the people up to the high place.  Get ’em up to Mount Carmel.”  First key to breaking your personal drought is, number one, you gotta confront the source of the drought.  Number two, you gotta be willing to go to a high place.  Now what I mean by that again – how many of you know I preached a series on that not too long ago? – what you have got to grab hold of, you can either live with the turkeys and the chickens.  Or you can get up into a place that is higher than ignorance or fear.

Now, again, I know a lot of you are intellectually processing through the whole thing.  But, what you have to realize, is that fear…you – you know what the part of the problem is here is that the pipes of the fluidity financially of our nation are plugged up, cuz of this whole mess.  Now, if I talked to [Pastor Smith here names a specific church member who is known as a big financial corporate executive] and have him explain it to you, he could do it much more articulately.  But just in my simple way, the pipes of the economy of America are plugged.  The bail-out was designed to get fluidity – and there’s a good reason for that term – get money FLOWING again.  Cuz everything’s plugged up.   Because all the mismanagement of things.  So businesses can’t get financing, people can’t get loans, small businesses can’t get loans.  So what all of a sudden, bam, everything’s under the grip of this thing.  Now the Word says, when you look at this, so what’s it done, it’s put fear in us.  Now, when fear grabs hold of you, what does fear do?  It plugs up faith.

So what’s happen now?  Our economy is plugged up, but the spirit realm of the church is now plugged up because we’re functioning in fear.  And fear paralyzes faith, and without faith it’s impossible to please God.  And what I’m trying to get you to understand, if you don’t take authority over fear, and if the church doesn’t take authority over fear and panic, who will?  It’s like we’ve turned the devil loose to run wild, and what is he doing?  He is causing – uh – back in the Depression, we’ve seen the pictures of people jumping out of windows, on wall street, out of skyscrapers, because everything was gone.  Panic and fear and depression and anxiety running rampant.  We’re either gonna fall into that.  And it happened at nine eleven, we were scared to fly on an airplane.  We were scared to go out of our house.  Everybody – we were looking at everybody.  We had paranoia running rampant.  We didn’t know if the, the bag that somebody was setting down next to us, and they go over to use the telephone, was full of TNT or something.  And panic set in.  And all of a sudden people’s whole lives became interrupted and disrupted because of fear.  Fear is a spirit.  You can have a peace in the midst of chaos if you will take authority over it.

Now if you don’t, then faith won’t function.  And if faith doesn’t function, we not gonna get through this. 

Hallelujah [Smith says this in a sort of ironic, mocking tone, as though he is responding to himself]

We’re not.  It’s going to be faith that unplugs the pipes of the economy.  [Charismania says:  So the ultimate object of our faith is to “get money flowing again”?]  And I’ve told you back when this thing started, that God was gonna take it on a course that when it flipped, we wouldn’t be able to explain exactly why it flipped.  Now, I am, I am not one to just set around and say, “God showed me this,” and how many know, I just preach, and if the Lord gives me something I just – but I’m tellin’ you, God has been rehearsing back into my ears the things that He spoke to me over the last few weeks since the end of August, and I’m tellin’ you, one of the things He said is, “When I do it, it will not be explainable up here, people will just say, ‘My Lord, what happened?’ foomp, it just flipped, it just shifted. 

And WE will understand something, because people will say, “Well, if they elect McCain, that’ll shift it, if they elect Obama, that will shift it.”  That in’t gonna shift it.  The only power that’s gonna shift this thing is the faith of God’s people to unplug the pipes because the faith is what moves the mountains.  We have got the biggest mountain in front of our nation that we have ever faced, and if we’re gonna move that mountain, don’t expect some intellectual setting in an office on Wall Street to figure it out.  They’re not gonna figure it out in the natural.  But by FAITH the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of wisdom will come on men, by FAITH God will begin to speak, and all of a sudden, decisions that may not even make sense will be made, and they will be the key to turn the tide.

Said, “You gotta go to a high place.”  See, because the low place says panic.  The high place says, “Get up where you can see what’s happening better.”  A few weeks ago, I preached to you, I said, the church, and people, when there’s a flood, will return to high ground.  Whenever there’s a flood, people go to high ground.  We have got to understand something.  God’s gonna bring His people back to a place of commitment to the things of the Spirit. 

Now I know a lot of you look at this in a political way, an economic way, a business way, a secular way.  I’m lookin’ at this in a big scheme of what’s more important than all that – the realms of eternity and the realms of the kingdom.  The devil is trying to cut off the blessing of this nation because if he does, it will impact the preaching of the gospel worldwide.  It will impact nations that have no way to get the gospel into their nations without people like you sowing seed and making an impact in missions and in outreach.  It will impact new churches from starting.  It will impact uh, historical churches from functioning, it will impact a church like ours from reaching out, doing more, taking on more challenges, believing God for bigger and better and greater things.  It will impact the work of the kingdom of God, and whether you understand it or not, because we kinda look at the kingdom sometimes as some kind of a thing we do when we don’t have anything else filling our schedule.  The most important thing to God is why He said, “Seek first the kingdom and my righteousness, and I will add the other things unto you.”  The most important IS the kingdom. 

[Charismania says:  OK, so here, Pastor Smith suddenly shifts gears and spiritualizes this whole quest for money and a return to economic stability.  Suddenly, seeking FINANCIAL STABILITY is “seeking first the kingdom”???  Since when????  Just because the vast majority of organized ministries do need money to maintain their operations, that does NOT mean that the “kingdom of God” can be equated with those organized ministries – or therefore, dependent upon MONEY – to keep going.  This line of reasoning reveals that Pastor Smith has some ideas about what the “kingdom of God” is that are simply NOT Scriptural.]

And so the Lord looks at all of our – uh – at the – the lukewarmness, He looks at all of the circumstances that are happening to the left hand and to the right hand, and somewhere, we gonna come to high ground again.  Somewhere people are going to say, “I am scared to death, I don’t know what’s going to happen, I am so fearful, I don’t know what my future’s gonna hold,” and all of a sudden, something called the Holy Ghost will begin to come upon them, and they will begin to say, “You’ve got to get into a house where faith is preached, you have got to get someplace that this torment breaks off of you, and this little place you’re in, that is the pulpit is filled by somebody that’s immoral, the pulpit is filled with somebody that agrees with things that God is diametrically opposed to, is not cuttin’ it.  That’s why you’re still dead, that’s why you’re still tormented, that’s why you’re still dry.”  [Charismania says:  Here it’s interesting to observe that Pastor Smith puts in a blatant plug for Living Word Church.  Without directly saying so, the clear implication nonetheless is that “getting up to higher ground” means going to a church like Living Word.  Pastor Smith is essentially saying that attending Living Word Church – “getting up to a higher place” – is the second step in “breaking the drought.”]  I’ve got news for you, the flood has hit.  But when the flood hits, people are gonna find high ground.  The fire has hit.  But like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we are gonna walk in the midst of the fire, and in the midst of the fire, the fourth man is gonna begin to talk to us, and we are going to hear what the Spirit is saying.

[crowd cheers and claps]

A high place.  You live in the basement, you’ll get depressed.  You live on the street, you’re gonna panic.  You go to the high place, you’ll just simply say, “I’ve done all I can do to stand, and I am gonna keep standing!” 

[crowd claps]

He told them to go to a higher place.  I don’t know how far I’ll get here today.  Then he said, “How long halt ye between two opinions?”  Now right now, folks, you gotta make up your mind.  You either gonna believe God, or you’re not. 

[crowd claps]

Oh, don’t kid yourself.  The ministries all across America, men standing in pulpits, just like I am, all across America, are facing the reality.  Are we gonna believe God and live, or we gonna get bound by fear and die?

[Charismania says:  Definitely, watching the U.S. economy fall apart is not fun.  It’s not especially cheerful or joyous.  Who among us would actually CHOOSE to suffer through financial devastation?  I certainly wouldn’t!  BUT…if our salvation – “believing God and living” – is somehow connected to the fate of the stock market, then what sort of “gospel” do we even profess?]

Now, that word “halt” – and I brought this up in another sermon I preached – when you study out the eighteenth chapter of First Kings, it talked about in this segment, how many recall, the prophets of Baal had their little show they put on.  And it talked about the prophets of Baal leaping on and off the altar.  So they’d get up on the altar, and they’d dance and cut themselves and carry on and scream and holler, they’d do their little deal, and they’d jump off the altar.  It’s weird, because the word “leaped,” in that context, and – when you read it, in the eighteenth chapter of First Kings, and the word, “halted,” come from the same Hebrew word. 

Well y’say, “Those two words don’t really make sense.”  Well, if you understand the essence of the meaning, the word “halted” there really means, how long will you go back and forth between two opinions?  Now here’s where the battleground’s gonna be.  Right now in the church, under the presence of God, under the anointing of God, with me, with the hammer out, faith is gonna get stirred in you.  That’s what I’m here for.  I’m here – faith cometh by hearing, right?  OK.  Faith cometh by hearing.  And the Word says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for.”  So faith comes by hearing.  So right now, you’re hearing me speak what I believe with every fiber of my being God spoke to me, and what my speaking to you is activating faith in you.  Faith is the substance – that word “substance” means “foundation” – of things hoped for.  Now, I speak to you, faith gets activated, substance is foundation, which is what faith is.  Faith is the foundation of your vision of your tomorrows.  Now, you’re either gonna get into your tomorrow in panic, or you’re gonna stand on a foundation of faith and hope and vision. 

Now, I’m not putting a date on the calendar, ladies and gentlemen, but I do know God spoke to me within that hundred-day period, that we were gonna see amazing unique unusual things like we have never seen before in the history of our nation.  How many believe that’s already manifested?  The other side of it, that He said in that, is that miraculous things were going to transact.  You say there’s no way anything can happen by the first part of December.  I’m not saying, exclusively, that it will.  But what I am saying is that it is not a time to lose hope. 

It is not a time to tank your dreams and visions.  It is not a time for you to prepare to go under.  Because what you are doing in doing that – you have given way to the panic, and the panic will not move the mountain that impacts us all.  This mountain will not be moved by one man of God, this mountain will not be moved by one dear mother in the prayer closet interceding.  This mountain will not be moved by two or three intercessors.  This mountain is going to be moved by God’s people rising up and saying, “Devil, you are a liar,” God’s people rising up and saying, “I’m going to the high place,” God’s people rising up and saying, “Satan, I know one thing, that I will not be halted between two opinions.  I’m not going back and forth.  I am on the Lord’s side.  I am on the Lord’s side.”

[Charismania says:  How did we get to the place where being on the Lord’s side is automatically equated with economic prosperity?]

No, nobody’s hearing me now.  I am on the Lord’s side.  He is Jehovah Jireh, He is who the Word says He is.  I am on the Lord’s side.  And people, this is not a problem that just impacts you.  It is a problem that impacts all of us.  And we’re gonna have to knit our spirits together and say, “Satan, get thee behind us,” I don’t care if anybody can figure out how it’s gonna happen, I don’t know how, but I do know, I hear a sound of an abundance of rain!

[crowd claps]

Say, “This, this hard for me to believe.”  Faith cometh by hearing.  I’m not gonna tell you to go get your survival sausage.  I’ve been through that Y2K garbage.  Panic, another panic attack we had.  Y2K.  Y2K, Y2K, panic everywhere, people had water in their basements.  My Lord, the only – you know, people, paid fortunes on some generators, cuz everybody was panicked.  The power’s gonna go out.  Don’t be on an airplane during Y2K.  You – all your records for your business are going down.  “America won’t be ready on time, it’s all over with!”  Panic, panic, panic.  The market got impacted.  Main Street got impacted.  YOU got impacted, cuz you STILL got that water in your basement you got eight years ago.  You still got your Y2K water.  You still got your Y2K survival sausage.  You still got it.  And you know why you got it?  Because you panicked. 

“But what if it would have – ”  But it didn’t!  And all you did was get phobic.  Fear hath torment.  People couldn’t even come to the New Year’s Eve service that year because they were scared that the world was going to come to an end at twelve o’clock.  You know what I was doing at twelve o’clock?  I was shoutin’ and dancin’ and praisin’ God and drinkin’ sparkling cider.  And you know what, the world didn’t come to an end, and you know what, the world is not coming to an end now.  Our economy is not coming to an end.  God is gonna make a way, God is gonna help us.  Because there is a seed that has been sown that has not yet been harvested.

[Charismania says:  Here is the heart of Pastor Smith’s message – that the economy is not coming to an end, that God is gonna make a way, that God is gonna help us…and all because people have been faithful in their giving.

But is that what the Bible would tell us?  And is that TRUE HOPE?  Is that TRUE GOOD NEWS?]

Oh I know I bumpin’ your logic right now, I am bumpin’ your logic button right now.  But I am trying to shift you out of the natural into the spiritual and get you to draw a sword in the Holy Ghost and say, “DEVIL, YOU ARE A LIAR!”

[crowd cheers]

Where sin abounds, where sin abounds, grace doth more abound.  You know why this mess is here?  Because of sin.  The Bible says, “The love of money is the root of -”  How much evil?  ALL evil.  So we got a sin problem.  We got a sin problem on Wall Street, we got a sin problem in the Senate, we got a sin problem in the Congress, we got a sin problem in the cabinet, we got a sin problem in leadership structures, we got a sin problem in CEO positions in major corporations.  But where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.  But who looses grace?  God looses it, but why does He loose it?  He looses it when people pray.

[crowd cheers]

[You say,] “I’m believin’ God, pastor, now you stirred my faith, my faith is – my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.  I’ve heard, and now my faith has been stirred – faith cometh by hearing.  Now my faith is the substance, it’s the foundation of my vision.  My faith is…and I’ve got it.”  And then you go out, and as soon as you flip on the TV, you get halted between two opinions.

I got my mutual fund report today – er, yesterday – and I didn’t open it. 

[Charismania says:  At least Pastor Smith HAS a mutual fund.  Many people in his congregation aren’t nearly so lucky.  We personally knew of several folks who had saved nothing for retirement because they were “believing God” for His miraculous intervention.]

[crowd cheers and claps]

Y’say, “You need to know where you’re at.”  You know what?  If it’s all gone, it’s all gone.  But you know, if Jehovah Jireh isn’t all gone, somehow, someway, we gonna make it.  I don’t know what else to say to you, but I’m not wavin’ a white flag.  Because I realize something, I can deal with this devil.  Naw, you didn’t hear me, I said, I can deal with this devil.  Naw, no, no, no, no, no, I can deal with this devil!  No – I gotta go past being Trinitarian, I think I gotta say this four times, Harry – I CAN DEAL WITH THIS DEVIL.  You can deal with this devil.  You say, “Who am I?”  You’re a son of God.  “Who am I?”  You’re a daughter of God.  “Who am I?”  You are the children of righteousness, you’re the light of the world, the salt of the earth, you’re kings, you’re priests.  You can deal with this devil.  Business owners, listen to me.  Don’t start your day without first opening the sound…

Get up in your morning as the sun rises and you look at the dawning of the day, don’t get up and say, “What bad news am I gonna hear today, how much worse are things gonna be today, how much more hell am I gonna have to deal with today?”  Get up, lift up your eyes unto the hills from whence cometh your help, your help cometh from the Lord which made the heavens and the earth.  Think I’m crazy?  Fine.  Think I’m crazy.  But I’m not waving the white flag at this devil.  GREATER IS HE THAT IS IN YOU THAN HE THAT IS IN THIS WORLD!!!!!!!

[crowd cheers]

There are atheists depending on you to get a breakthrough.  They don’t know it.  Fear and sin are at the root of this whole thing.  You can get all intellectual with me, but even the most liberal and the most conservative say the problem is rooted in greed.  The love of money is the root cause of all – everybody say it – ALL – evil.  And the result of the sin is what sin always brings.  Fear.  Because when Eve sinned and Adam sinned, they hid cuz they were afraid.  I can deal with THAT devil.  You can deal with that devil.  Because Jesus shed His blood for you to deal with that.  [Charismania says:  Wow, so Jesus shed His blood so that I can believe that our economy will pick up again?  I thought Jesus shed His blood to reconcile me, a sinner beyond hope, with a holy righteous God so that I could be restored to fellowship with Him for all eternity?  I had no idea that Jesus died for the U.S. economy.  And yes, sorry – a little sarcasm is beginning to creep into my remarks.  But really, does anyone else join me in thinking that this whole thing is becoming downright blasphemous?]

Don’t lose hope.  Don’t panic.  Oh, yes, we’re aware.  Because when they hit the towers on nine eleven, you’d better have been sober and vigilant.  You need to be sober, and you need to be vigilant.  But you don’t need to be panic-ridden.  You NEED to be able to rise up and really take authority over that which would take authority over you.

You think preaching this right now is easy?  No, I’m gonna tell you something, God is not going to fail His people.  He’s not.  He’s not gonna fail you.  This mountain has to move, and I want you to understand, this mountain must move, because, if it does not move, then, it becomes, it becomes a barrier that stops the work of the kingdom.  Because if we don’t move this mountain in America, the mountain will shift geographically and stagnate the work of the kingdom all over the world.  And the enemy right now is having a party.  I got news for you, HE’S gonna be jumpin’ out of a skyscraper. 

[Charismania says:  So essentially here, Smith believes that if the economy does not turn around, then that would mean that God HAS “failed His people.”  God’s faithfulness to His people, according to Pastor Smith, simply has to mean that God will intervene in our finances and bring us financial prosperity.]

[crowd cheers]

[Pensive piano music begins playing softly in the background.  Pastor Smith begins to speak more slowly, seeming to give more weight to each phrase.]

Now people, you gotta get off of our in-between, lukewarm, halted-between-two-opinions.  I’m gonna finish with this.  I’m not gotten through this yet.  If you go I believe about the thirtieth verse.  The next thing that the prophet did is that he repaired the altar that was broken down.  And he told the people, “Come near.  Come near.  Come near.”  And the people pressed in and came near where he was rebuilding the altar.  And as he began to rebuild the altar, he was reestablishing divine order in the nation.  But he said, “Come near.”

You can’t right now pull away.  You have to come near.  You have to draw nigh.  You have to come near in prayer, you have to come near in praise.  You have to come near in service.  You have to come near in faithfulness.  This can’t be a time that you play it like you have.  You’ve got to come near.  We are in a mountain-moving moment.  And you know what?  We’ve got what it takes to move a mountain.  [crowd claps] 

Sin has abounded, it’s apexed to a point that every family in America is impacted by sin.  We’ve kinda looked at it.  But now, every family in America, probably in the 95 percentile is being impacted by panic and fear.  We can deal with that devil.  We can deal with the spirit of sin.  We can deal with the abounding of sin but the higher abounding of grace.

[Charismania says:  It’s interesting that despite mentioning more than once that “sin” is at the root of our economic problems, Pastor Smith never gets around to explaining which “sin” he’s talking about, except for a passing mention of the sin of greed.  The only “sin” he seems to define is the “sin” of having a fearful reaction to bad economic news.  If “sin” is at the root of financial problems, wouldn’t it be good to get more specific, so that people can know what they’re supposed to repent of and change? 

I’d definitely be interested in hearing Pastor Smith’s explanation of when greed is a sin, anyway, since he and his family frequently display a breathtaking eagerness for financial gifts from their congregation, stretching all boundaries of good taste by sending out letters of reminder when their birthdays approach, and specifically spelling out in those letters that monetary gifts are much appreciated.]

And I want you to understand today this is not a time to become a user-friendly, lukewarm, skim milk, preach-what-people-wanna-hear kind of church.  [Charismania says:  Pastor Smith was always fond of telling the congregation that Living Word Church was NOT “user-friendly” and did NOT preach what people wanted to hear.  I actually used to believe him when he’d say this.  Then, after we left and the fog lifted, I realized that Pastor Smith preached almost EXACTLY what people wanted to hear!  How is his message of economic prosperity – even in times of financial bad news – NOT what people want to hear?]  This is not a time to be ashamed of speaking in tongues.  This is not a time to be ashamed of preaching an undiluted black-and-white gospel, this is not a time to be too busy to pray.  This is not a time to be too busy to be in the Word.  This is not a time to be laying out of the house of God because everything else in your world is spinning.  This is not a time for that.  This a time to come near and put it into order.  This is a time to come near and to put it into order.

You say, “I can’t give, this is a bad time to give.  This is a bad time.”  But we’ve, you’ve gotta understand, that it’s in these moments that when we press in, when we walk down the aisle, when we stay faithful with our tithe, stay faithful with our giving, it’s in these times that God realizes that you’re not operating maybe out of your abundance, you’re operating out of the abundance of your faith.  You are operating out of the abundance that you believe God will make a way where there seems to be no way.  [Charismania says:  Yet again, the main thrust of this message comes down to giving money in Living Word’s offerings.  In times of crisis, Pastor Smith would say, we must remain faithful to give money to the church.  Or else we won’t get out of our crisis.] 

Listen, I’m not backin’ down to you, or to any devil, or to any body.  Because somebody’s got to cry aloud and spare not, somebody’s has got to pull the plug on this spirit, and this spirit will destroy our nation if the church does not rise up and be the salt of the earth.  I’m gonna say it to you one more time – it might irritate you when I say it – but THE DROUGHT IS BROKEN!!

Somebody give Him a praise!

[crowd claps and cheers]

Stand to your feet all over this house.  Get out of your pews wherever you’re at and get down here to the front and draw near to me right now.  [Charismania says:  OK, when I first heard this one little phrase – “…and draw near to ME right now” – I thought I’d misunderstood what Pastor Smith had said.  So I replayed it.  And no, I had NOT misunderstood.  He had indeed told the people to “draw near” to HIMSELF.  I don’t know about you, but this, in my thinking, is CREEPY and CULTIC.  In the Bible, we NEVER see any of the prophets or apostles encouraging people to “draw near” to themselves.  Rather, they tell people to “draw near” to GOD.

Even in the midst of our greatest love for Pastor Smith and Living Word, I always felt like Pastor Smith sometimes got dangerously close to having something of a “God complex.”  I think he has a difficult time differentiating between where he and his personal interests end and where his “ministry” begins.  I think a long time ago already, the lines began to blur, to where he sees his ministry as being part of “the Gospel” and himself as being one and the same with his ministry…so therefore, he himself (in his thinking) sort of BECOMES “the gospel.”  It’s a scary thing.  It’s not always obvious, but occasionally it slips out, as it did in this little phrase of, “Draw near to me right now.”  CREEPY.] 

Come on.  I’m glad you’re here this morning.  Most of you do not get here on time, but you do eventually get here.  Come on, press on in.  You don’t need all of your cubic inches that you think you need – PRESS IN!  Bother the person in front of you.  Cuz we gotta fight this fight together.  We gotta fight this fight together, Marc.  Man, we talk – Marc’s a vice president of [Bank Name].  We talk.  I’m tellin’ ya something.  I can’t turn off what I heard God say.  And God’s gonna have people like you, in banks like [Bank Name], people like many of you in different corporations, they won’t even understand what you’re doing when you’re walking down the aisles, and they say, “Hey, wanna go to lunch?” and you say, “No, not today,” and all of a sudden you’re just walkin’ the hallways.  “What are you doing?”  “Oh, I’m just getting’ a little cardio in,” but what you’re really doing is you’re walking the hallways of your company and you’re praying in the Spirit, you’re believing God, you’re fasting, you’re saying, “God, I’m not waving the white flag at this devil.  I’m not waving the white flag.  Somehow, someway, for the kingdom’s sake -”

Quit lookin’ at it all for OUR sake.  There’s something bigger than our house, our car, and our retirement.  There’s the work of the gospel.  There’s an eternal perspective here.  My God!  Be sober about this.  I’m not preaching some cute little series to make you jump up and down and wave your hands in the air and give you a hot flash and a cold chill.  We are in a battle.  And we better draw the sword.  And we better know what God’s saying to us.  And when they come back down the mountain and say, “I see nothing,” send ’em back up again, because finally somebody’s gonna come and say, “I see a little cloud, I see a little cloud,” and when they do, you better gird up your loins and get ready to run, cuz it’s gonna be time to move in faith. 

Now lift your hands up toward God.  [Lapses into speaking in tongues] Sheda bota kotanduh da ko sigh.  Father, in the name of Jesus Christ, I rebuke the spirit of fear and panic, anxiety that is upon men and women, uncertainty and unsettled spirit, that is resting upon the youngest to the eldest.  I rebuke it in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.  I declare peace that surpasses understanding will come upon men and women.  What has become evil, you will turn the evil to good.  What seems to be a stranglehold will be broken, and when it breaks, it will become an opportunity to overflow in blessing.  And God, I declare, your Word said you’ll bring a pool out of parched ground, you will make a way in the wilderness, you will make a stream flow in the desert.  I cannot do this, God.  [Charismania says:  Then why command the people to “draw near” to you?]  Nobody in this room can do this.  The smartest business people in my church can’t turn and correct this problem.  But God, you can do what no other power can do, and we humble ourselves before you today, and we pray and you said, if we would, you would heal our land.  God, heal our nation, heal it, God, for the kingdom, heal it for the lost souls that need to be saved, heal it for the preaching of the gospel, heal it for miracles in the name of Jesus. 

Somebody lift your hands up and start praising God.  I break the spirit of fear.  I rebuke the panic spirit that’s upon our nation and upon our people.  [Charismania says:  OK, so Pastor Smith just finished declaring that he himself “could not do it” – he could not fix the nation’s economic problems.  But in this sermon, convoluted though it often was, he CLEARLY STATES, several times, that our economic problems are all tied up in the “spirit of fear.”  According to Pastor Smith, the “spirit of fear” is what is causing an economic downturn. 

Now…if Pastor Smith is able to “break the spirit of fear” and “rebuke the panic spirit,” then isn’t he contradicting himself?  Either he is able to break the spirit of fear – and thereby fix the economy, according to his own analysis – or else these are just empty words designed to “rally the troops” and make people feel better and give money in the offering.  Which is it?]  God, I declare churches that are full of the Holy Ghost all over this nation, we’ll raise up armies of intercessors, raise up armies of people, in the name of Jesus!  Somebody praise Him, somebody praise Him, somebody praise Him, somebody praise Him today.

I heard…I heard His voice.  I heard His voice.  Believe me, it’d be a lot easier on this one, to just preach to you and say, “Now hold on, somehow, someway we gonna make it.  I don’t know what’s gonna happen.”  [Charismania says:  The insinuation here is that somehow, Pastor Smith actually DOES know what’s going to happen?]  But you know, for me to do that, I’d have to tell God to never speak to me again.  [Charismania says:  How does a statement like this one measure up theologically?  Is God really so small that someone like Pastor Smith could successfully “tell God to never speak to me again”?  If Pastor Smith’s “God” really is that small, no wonder he must put his faith in the U.S. economy’s turnaround!]  And I won’t do it.  I wanna hear Him, but right now, just like you, it’s taking all the faith – I gotta say, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”  I gotta grab it by faith.  And I don’t know about you, but it’s not a time to pray less, it’s a time to pray more.  It’s not a time to not fast, it’s a time TO fast.  It’s not a time NOT to give, it’s a time TO give.  It’s not a time to get loose and lax in our study of the Word, it’s a time to plow into the Word that faith will be ignited in us.  It is a time to let the workings of the Holy Ghost do what only God can do.  It said, “Blessed are they that mourn, they shall be comforted.”  And that does not mean he’ll just wipe the tears out of your eyes, he’ll EMPOWER you in traumatic circumstances.  How many need a little bit of that in your life?  Somebody give God one more praise this morning.  Come on and bless Him, come on and bless Him.

[crowd cheers]

I want you to turn to two or three people, look at ’em, and say, “Somehow, someway, God’s gonna make a way.”

Aw, now, look at two or three more, and say, “Somehow, some way, God’s gonna make a way.  Somehow, some way, God’s gonna make a way.  Somehow, some way, God is going to make a way.”


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As I’ve said before, many times, the journey out of Charismania seems to take longer than one would imagine.  We’ve been gone from Living Word Church (a pseudonym, as are all other names in this post) for a year and a half, and yet I still keep coming to new realizations about things we experienced there.  I’ll be going along, thinking that I am SO OVER Living Word, when suddenly I’ll remember something and be hit by a new understanding, a new interpretation, of it.

Like yesterday.  For some reason, I suddenly remembered something that Pastor Smith would often say when talking about people who left Living Word. 

(I’m going to interrupt myself before I even really get rolling, so that I can point out how odd it seems, in retrospect, that a pastor of a fairly large congregation – around 1,000 in attendance on a Sunday – would EVER comment from the pulpit about people who leave.  But Smith did this on many occasions.  He’d often joke about the “revolving door” of the church…and the evil vipers who would spread vicious lies about him…and sometimes he’d say, “If you don’t like it, LEAVE!”

But that would be fodder for another post.)

Anyway…back to what I remembered yesterday…

On many occasions, when Pastor Smith would go on these rants about people who left Living Word, he’d do so in a way that really couldn’t be called a “rant.”  He’d use a very reasonable, borderline patronizing tone of voice, like he was a helpful preschool teacher explaining the obvious.  And he’d say, “You know, I’ve seen so many families, they’re plugged in to this great church.  Their kids are doing well.  Their finances are doing well.  Their marriage is great.  But then they leave.  And somehow, after that, their kids start having problems.  Their finances get messed up.  And their marriages fall apart…”

During that last bit, Smith would shrug dramatically at us and then, still in a very calm, reasonable, preschool teacher sort of voice, finish up with something to the effect of, “Now, I’m not sayin’ ANYTHING.  But you can do the math!”

I got to thinking about this yesterday.  The clear implication of Pastor Smith’s frequent mentions of people who leave, and how their lives basically fall apart after they do, was that attendance at Living Word Church was the thing that had helped these people remain successful in their finances and family life.  Leaving Living Word, on the other hand, meant that you’d lose this magical touch on your life.  You’d lose money, you’d lose your kids, you’d lose your marriage.

Something hit me yesterday about this.  First of all, I need to say that Pastor Smith’s insinuations APPEARED to have some truth to them.  We all knew folks who’d left Living Word, and several of them did get divorced after they left.  Many of them did suffer through financial crack-ups.  Many of them did have problems with their kids. 

I think this is why a bunch of fairly educated, intelligent people could sit there and listen to Pastor Smith say these things and not get upset and walk out – because there SEEMED to be a bit of truth to what he was saying.  It SEEMED like Living Word Church WAS good for a family’s success.

But…looking at it another way…

It’s fully possible that leaving Living Word Church DID lead to all sorts of problems for people.  But NOT because they’d left Living Word’s protective “anointing.”  Rather, people had problems after they left Living Word because of the natural implications of what it means to have been under the sway of a manipulative and abusive ministry!

Financially, people at Living Word strained themselves to give sacrificially.  While I’ll never stop believing in the principle of honoring God first with one’s money, the truth of the matter is that Pastor Smith hammered away at the subject of giving, sometimes even taking up multiple collections in a single church service, to the point where many of the people I knew were jeopardizing their financial health to “sow seed” far above and beyond their tithe.  Many people enjoyed the special attention they got from Pastor Smith when they did this, too.  And a lot of us bought into the idea that we were essentially “investing” when we gave, since we were promised a “hundredfold harvest” from our giving.

So it’s far more likely that those who left suffered financial setbacks BECAUSE of financially harmful decisions they’d made while still attending Living Word.

Likewise Smith’s whole observation about marriages that broke up.

Discovering that you’ve been deceived and manipulated can put major strain on a marriage.  Many people exit Charismania with little sense of what’s real and what’s fake about their Christianity.  This can prompt a major life crisis.  And husbands and wives often handle this crisis differently.  Perhaps one spouse spends all his time reading and researching doctrine, while the other one grows apathetic about all things Christian.  Losing one’s faith in the “Word of Faith” message is akin to losing a loved one.  When you discover that it’s NOT necessarily true that you’ll always be victorious in precisely the way you declare victory…when you discover that miraculous healing is NOT necessarily “always God’s will” for every situation…when you discover that the “hundredfold harvest” is essentially a myth, a con, promoted by unscrupulous “men of Gawd” so that they can line their own pockets and pursue their own luxurious lifestyles even as they themselves do not “sow” all THEY have into OTHER ministries because they KNOW that they won’t receive a “hundredfold return”…

Well, these discoveries are like little deaths.  At least they were for us.  And as with any death, any loss, nothing will ever quite be the same again.  There’s grief.  There’s pain.  There’s a keen sense of disappointment.  And just as the grieving process over an actual physical death can take its toll on a marriage, so can this type of death, the death of one’s belief in the sort of “fairy tale God” taught and promoted at Charismaniac churches.

So yesterday, I suddenly realized that when Pastor Smith made mention of the way people’s lives seem to fall apart after they left Living Word Church, he was – as was so often the case – trying to manipulate his people.  He was trying to control them through fear, by planting the idea in their minds that they somehow needed Living Word Church in order to hold their lives together. 

And he was so often successful in his quest, as we all sat there and remembered the folks we knew who’d had their lives go south after leaving.

Yet – as was also often the case – Pastor Smith was only telling part of the story.  He neglected to mention that the wrecked finances, the broken marriages, the rebellious kids, were far more likely the result of what happens when people have to pick through the reality of deception – deception at the hands of men like Pastor Smith, who promote a false gospel for financial gain.

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