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The True Father of the Modern Faith Movement
from A Different Gospel
by D.R. McConnell

People frequently credit my father, Kenneth E. Hagin, with being the “Father” of the so-called faith movement. However, as he points out, it’s nothing new; it’s just the preaching of the simple ageless gospel. But he has had a great effect on many of the well-known faith ministers of today. Almost every major faith ministry of the United States has been influenced by his ministry. Kenneth Hagin, Jr., “Trend toward the Faith Movement,” Charisma (Aug. 1985), 67.

They’ve [the Faith teachers] all copied from my Dad [E. W. Kenyon]. They’ve changed it a little bit and added their own touch. . . , but they couldn’t change the wording. The Lord gave him [Kenyon] words and phrases. He coined them. They can’t put it in any other words. . . It’s very difficult for some people to be big enough to give credit to somebody else. Ruth Kenyon Houseworth, taped interview, Lynnwood, Wash., Feb. 19, 1982.

The Relationship Between Kennth Hagin and E. W. Kenyon

The founding father of the Faith movement is commonly held to be Kenneth Erwin Hagin, the man termed by Charisma magazine as “the granddaddy of the Faith teachers,”1 and “the father of the Faith movement.”2With his country Texan accent and a disarming “good ol’ boy” charm, Hagin’s teachings on faith, healing, and prosperity have been foundational for almost every major minister of the Faith movement.3 Even the other heavyweights of the Faith movement readily admit that Hagin’s teaching and leadership were the key both to their own success, and that of the movement.

For instance, the heir apparent to Hagin’s throne, Kenneth Copeland, frequently acknowledges Hagin as his spiritual father. Although he briefly attended Oral Roberts University, Copeland points to Hagin as his mentor, not Roberts. Ken Hagin, Jr., recounts the beginning of Copeland’s relationship with his father this way:

A poverty-stricken student from Oral Roberts University attended my father’s Tulsa seminars in the mid ’60s and got turned onto the Word of God. The student was deeply in debt, but he desperately wanted my father’s tapes. He offered to trade the title to his car for them. Buddy Harrison, my brother-in-law, was managing the ministry then. He took one look at the old car and told him, “Just go ahead and take the tapes. Bring the money when you can.” So young Kenneth Copeland memorized those tapes and another great ministry was launched.4

According to recent polls and press, Copeland is now the ex officio leader of the Faith movement. Nevertheless, at least in spiritual matters, when Hagin speaks, Copeland still listens.

Frederick K. C. Price, a prominent Faith preacher and founder of the 14 thousand member Crenshaw Christian Center of Inglewood, California, can make the incredible claim that “Kenneth Hagin has had the greatest influence upon my life of any living man.”5 Price received a great deal of help from Hagin in the early days of his Faith ministry, and Hagin is still a frequent speaker at his church in California.

Many other ministers of the Faith movement also acknowledge Hagin as their spiritual father. Charles Capps, who bills himself as “a Spirit-filled farmer from England, Arkansas,” and who speaks at many national and local Faith conferences, states that “most of my teaching came from Brother Kenneth Hagin” and that Hagin was “the greatest influence of my life.”6 Even so prominent a preacher of charismatic renewal as John Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood Outreach Center, Houston, Texas, gratefully acknowledges Hagin as his introduction to the Faith movement and proclaims, “I think Brother Hagin is chosen of God and stands in the forefront of the message of faith.”7

Indeed, not only does Kenneth Hagin stand in the forefront, for many in the Faith movement he is also “the Prophet”: the Revelator of the gospel of faith, health, and wealth. As we will see in chapter 4, Hagin claims to be the man who first received the “revelation” on which the Faith movement is based. Even though in popularity and power the younger Copeland has overtaken his elder Hagin, in the eyes of his disciples, the man who is referred to as “Dad Hagin” at Rhema Bible Institute is still the grand old man of Faith.

Not everyone in the Faith movement, however; is willing to concede to Hagin the role of patriarch and founder. Ruth Kenyon Houseworth, president of the Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society, Lynnwood, Wash-ington, contends that her father, E. W. Kenyon, who died in 1948, is the man who really deserves the title, “father of the Faith movement.” Mrs. Houseworth charges that the 18 books written by her father and published by her society have been pilfered, both in idea and word, by the other preachers of the movement.8

Houseworth says of her father’s lack of acknowledgement by the Faith movement:

His first book was printed in 1916, and he had the revelation years before that. These that are coming along now that have been in the ministry for just a few years and claiming that this is something that they are just starting, it makes you laugh a little bit. It is very difficult for some people to be big enough to give credit to somebody else.9

Although Mrs. Houseworth is extremely gracious when asked about her father’s lack of recognition, she is decidedly not “laughing” about it, not even “a little bit.” She feels hurt that the Faith teachers have failed to give credit where credit is due. Moreover; the Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society has been exploited financially by the massive popularity of Hagin (whose first book was not published until 1960), Copeland, et al. Houseworth can no longer afford to publish its newsletter because of what she sees as the injustice done to her father.

The injustice done to Kenyon has not gone unnoticed by others who knew him. For instance, one man who both knew and occasionally ministered with Kenyon, John Kennington, pastor of Emmanuel Temple in Portland, Oregon, says this of his role in the Faith movement:

Today Kenyon’s ideas are in the ascendancy. Via the electronic church or in the printed page I readily recognize not only Kenyon’s concepts, but at times I recognize pure plagiarism, for I can almost tell you book, chapter, and page where the material is coming from. Kenyon has be-come the “father” of the so-called “faith” movement.10

Kennington claims that plagiarism of Kenyon’s writings is a fairly common occurrence in the charismatic movement. “In fact,” he says, “one prominent Pentecostal minister hired a writer or writers to rewrite Kenyon’s books and put his name on those books.”11 Because of these many plagiarisms, Kennington agrees with Houseworth that her father is also the father of the Faith movement.

Hagin may have the reputation of being “the granddaddy of the Faith teachers,” but in the eyes of Mrs. Houseworth, he is just another young preacher who has “borrowed” her deceased father’s writings. Kenyon was 70 years old when Hagin was licensed as an Assemblies of God pastor in 1937 at the age of 20. Hagin himself, however, has gone on record with the claim that he was teaching his message on faith and healing long before he ever heard of E. W. Kenyon.

Mr. Kenyon went home to be with the Lord in 1948. It was 1950 before I was introduced to his books. A brother in the Lord asked me, “Did you ever read after Dr. Kenyon?” I said, “I’ve never heard of him.” He said, “You preach healing and faith just like he does.” He gave me some of Kenyon’s books. And he did preach faith and healing just like I do. After all, if someone preaches the new birth, and somebody else preaches the new birth, it has to be the same. Likewise, if you preach faith and healing – and I mean Bible faith and Bible healing – it has to be the same. We may have different words to express it, but if it is according to the word of God, it is the same truth.12

Hagin claims that it was not until 1950 that he came into contact with Kenyon, some 17 years after he had gotten “the revelation” that launched his ministry. Any similarities between himself and Kenyon are to be attributed, says Hagin, to the fact that both are merely “using different words to express” what the Bible has to say on “the same truth.”12

At first glance, this statement may appear a reasonable explanation, but does it account for the amazing similarities between Hagin’s writings and Kenyon’s? Unfortunately, no, for as this chapter unfolds the reader will be presented with seemingly undeniable evidence that E. W Kenyon is the true father of the Faith movement, a position which has been unjustly usurped by Kenneth Hagin. As Mrs. Houseworth has testified, the Faith movement in general and Kenneth Hagin in particular have used Kenyon’s many books and pamphlets without ever acknowledging that he is the author of their teachings and the founder of their movement.

Hagin’s Plagiarism of Kenyon

Hagin, of course, would deny any plagiarism of Kenyon. He maintains that it was not until after his discovery of the truths of the Faith gospel that he was introduced to Kenyon’s writings. There is reason to believe however, that he was acquainted with Kenyon earlier than 1950, perhaps much earlier. For example, Hagin remembers reading a book in 1949 with the following quotation: “It seems that God is limited by our prayer life, that He can do nothing for humanity unless someone asks Him to do it. Why this is, I do not know.”13 This quotation comes from E. W. Kenyon’s book, The Two Kinds of Faith.14 Even the “revelation” supposedly given to Hagin on his deathbed is described by him with an undocumented and plagiarized quotation from The Two Kinds of Faith.15

Such confusion over when Hagin read various materials by Kenyon is fairly common. For instance, Hagin says that, in February of 1978, the Lord told him to prepare a teaching seminar on “the name of Jesus.” Only after he began his research does Hagin admit that he discovered Kenyon’s book, The Wonderful Name ofJesus. At his request, Mrs. Houseworth gave Hagin permission to quote from Kenyon’s The Wonderful Name of Jesus. Hagin’s book, The Name of Jesus, was first published in 1979. Concerning his indebtedness to Kenyon, Hagin writes:

At the time [1978], I had one sermon I preached on this wonderful subject, but I had never really taught on it at length. I began to look around to see what I could find written on the subject. For others, you see, have revelations from God. I was amazed how little material there is in print on this subject. The only good book devoted entirely to it that I have found is E. W. Kenyon’s The Wonderful Name of Jesus. I encourage you to get a copy. It is a marvelous book. It is revelation knowledge. It is the Word of God.16

This is one of the few candid, direct acknowledgments of Kenyon to appear in any of Hagin’s writings. The problem is that two years prior to 1978, the first date that Hagin admits to having read Kenyon’s The Wonderful Name of Jesus, he had already copied extensively from this book for an article published in his magazine in 1976.17 That article never mentions the name of E. W. Kenyon.

Nor is Kenyon mentioned where his words and thoughts appear in numerous other books and articles by Hagin. Whereas Hagin appears to have copied only occasionally from sources other than Kenyon,18 he has plagiarized Kenyon both repeatedly and extensively. Actually, it would not be overstated to say that the very doctrines that have made Kenneth Hagin and the Faith movement such a distinctive and powerful force within the independent charismatic movement are all plagiarized from E. W. Kenyon. This is a most serious charge and one that will be substantiated by ample evidence. Part 2 of this volume will examine the fact that all of the major thoughts and ideas of Faith theology are taken from Kenyon. At this point in our study, it is sufficient to say that the writings of Kenneth Hagin are verbally dependent upon Kenyon. The accusations of plagiarism by Houseworth and Kennington are absolutely correct. In many instances, Hagin has, indeed, copied word-for-word without documentation from Kenyon’s writings. The following excerpts of plagiarisms from no less than eight books by E. W. Kenyon are presented as evidence of this charge. This is only a sampling of such plagiarisms. Many more could be cited.

Kenneth Hagin

The 22nd Psalm gives a graphic picture of the crucifixion of Jesus – more vivid than that of John, Matthew or Mark who witnessed it.

E. W. Kenyon

The twenty-second Psalm gives a gnphic picture of the crucifixion of Jesus. It is more vivid than that of John, Matthew or Mark who witnessed it.

Kenneth Hagin

He utters the strange words “But thou art holy.” What does that mean? He is becoming sin. His parched lips cry, “I am a worm and no man.” He is spiritually dead – the worm. Jesus died of a ruptured heart. When it happened, blood from all parts of His body poured through the rent into the sack which holds the heart. As the body cooled, the red corpuscles coagulated and rose to the top, the white serum settled to the bottom. When that Roman spear pierced the sack, water poured out first, then the coagulated blood oozed out, rolling down his side onto the ground. John bore witness of it. (“Christ our Substitute,” The Word of Faith [Mar., 1975], pp. 1, 4, 5, 7)

E. W. Kenyon

But He says the strangest words, “But thou art holy.” What does that mean? He is becoming sin. Can you hear those parched lips cry, “I am a worm and no man.”? He is spiritually dead. The worm. Jesus had died of a ruptured heart. When that happened, blood from all pats of the body poured in through the rent, into the sack that holds the heart. Then as the body cooled, the red corpuscles coagulated and rose to the top. The white serum settled to the bottom. When that Roman soldier’s spear pierced the sack, water poured out first. Then the coagulated blood oozed out, rolled down His side onto the ground, and John bore witness of it. (What Happned from the Cross to the Throne [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969], 44 – 45)

Kenneth Hagin

What does identification mean?
It means our complete union with Christ.
This gives us the key which unlocks the great teachings of identification. Christ became one with us in sin that we might become one with Him in righteousness. He became as we were to the end that we might become as He is now. He died to make us live. He became weak to make us strong.
He suffered shame to give us glory. He went to hell to take us to heaven. He was condemned to justify us. He was made sick that healing might be ours. (“The Resurrection! What it Gives Us.. .” The Word of Faith [Apr., 1977], p. 5) E. W. Kenyon
At once you ask, “What does identification mean?”
It means our complete union with Him in His Substitutionary Sacrifice.
This gives us the key that unlocks the great teaching of identification. Christ became one with us in sin, that we might become one with Him in righteousness. He became as we were to the end that we might become as He is now. He died to make us live He became weak to make us strong.
He suffered shame to give us glory. He went to hell to take us to heaven. He was condemned to justify us. He was made sick that healing might be ours. (Identfication: A Romance in Redemption [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1968], 6, 7) Kenneth Hagin

Here is a picture of Christ in awful combat with the hosts of darkness. It gives us a glimpse of the tremendous victory He won before He rose from the dead. The margin of King James reads, “He put off from Himself the principalities and the powers.” It is quite obvious and evident that whole demon hosts, when they had Jesus within their power intended to swamp Him, to overwhelm Him, and to hold Him in fearful bondage. But the cry came forth from the throne of God that Jesus had met the demands of Justice, that the sin problem had been settled, that man’s redemption was a fact. And when that cry reached the dark regions, Jesus arose and threw back the host of demons and met Satan in awful combat. God has made this investment for the church. He has made this deposit on which the church has a right to draw for her every need. Oh that our eyes would open, that our souls would dare to rise in the realm of the omnipotent where that name would mean to us all that God the Father intended it to mean! In one sense, this is practically unexplored table land in Christian experience. (“The Name of Jesus: The More Excellent Name,” The Word of Faith [Apr., 1976], pp. 4-6)

E. W. Kenyon

The picture here is of Christ… in awful combat with the hosts of darkness. It gives us a glimpse of the tremendous battle and victory that Jesus won before He rose from the dead. The margin reads: Having put off from Himself the principalities and powers.” It is evident that the whole demon host, when they saw Jesus in their power simply intended to swamp Him, overwhelm Him, and they held Him in fearful bondage until the cry came forth from the throne of God that Jesus had met the demands of justice; that the sin problem was settled and man’s redemption was a fact. When this cry reached the dark regions, Jesus rose and hurled back the hosts of darkness, and met Satan in awful combat. God has made this investment for the benefit of the Church: He has made this deposit on which the Church has a right to draw for her every need. Oh, that our eyes were open; that our souls would dare rise into the realm of Omnipotence where the Name would mean to us all that the Father has invested in it. This is practically an unexplored tableland in Christian experience. (The Wonderful Name of Jesus [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1927], 8, 9, 11)

Kenneth Hagin

God’s method of physical healing is spiritual. It is not mental as Christian Science, Unity and other metaphysical teachers claim. Neither is it physical as the medical world teaches. When man heals, he must do it either through the mind or through the physical body. When God heals He heals through the human spirit, for God is a Spirit. Life’s greatest forces are spiritual forces. Love and hate, faith and fear, joy and peace, are all of the spirit. (“Spirit, Soul, & Body; Part Three: God Heals through the Spirit of Man” Word of Faith [Dec., 1977], p. 5)

E. W. Kenyon

You must have seen as you have studied this book that healing is spiritual. It is not mental as Christian Science and Unity and other metaphysical teachers claim. Neither is it physical as the medical world teaches. When man heals, he must either do it through the mind . . . or he does it through the physical body. . . When God heals He heals through the spirit. We can understand that the greatest forces in life are spiritual forces. Love and hate, fear and faith, joy and grief, are all of the spirit. (Jesus the Healer [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1940], p. 90)

Kenneth Hagin

The fact that there is enmity between Satan and the woman is seen through woman’s history. She has been bought and sold as common chattel. Only where Christianity has reached the heart of the country has woman been elevated above the brute creation. Woman’s seed is Christ. Christ was hunted from His babyhood by Satan’s seed until finally He was nailed to the cross. From the resurrection of Jesus until this day, the church has been the subject of the bitterest persecution and enmity of the world. “and it. . . shall bruise thy head” (the head of Satan). In Oriental languages “bruising the head” means breaking the lordship of a ruler. “The heel” is the Church in its earth walk. . . . The long ages of persecution of the Church by the seed of Satan are today merely a matter of history. (“Incarnation” Word of Faith [Dec., 1978], p. 4)

E. W. Kenyon

That is, there will be enmity between Satan and woman. This is proved by woman’s history. She has been bought and sold as common chattel. Only where Christianity has reached the hearts of a country has woman ever received any treatment that would lift her above the brute creation. …and woman’s seed is Christ. Christ was hunted from His babyhood by Satan’s seed until finally they nailed him to the cross; and from the resurrection of Jesus until this day, the church has been the subject of the bitterest persecution and enmity of the world. “He shall bruise thy head” – that is, the head of Satan. In all Oriental languages the term “bruise the head” means breaking the lordship of the ruler. “The heel” is the Church in its earth walk. The long ages of persecution of the Church by the seed of Satan are a matter of history. (The Bible in the Light of Our Redemption [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969], p. 58)

Kenneth Hagin

Here in Genesis, God refused to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah until He had talked it over with Abraham, His blood covenant friend. Abraham’s prayer is one of the most suggestive and illuminating prayers of the Old Testament. Abraham was taking his place in the covenant. Abraham had, through the covenant, received rights and privileges which we very little understand. The covenant Abraham had just solemnized with Jehovah gave him a legal standing with God. . . . we hear him speaking so plainly “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” All through the Old Testament we find men who understood and took their place in the covenant. Joshua could open the Jordan. He could command the sun, moon and stars to stand still in the heavens. Elijah could bring fire out of heaven to consume the altar as well as the sacrifice. David’s mighty men were utterly shielded from death in time of war as long as they remembered the covenant. (Plead Your Case [Tulsa: Faith Library, 1979], pp. 4-9; cf. pp. 23-32)

E. W. Kenyon

…in Gen. 18 when God refused to destroy Sodom and Gomornh until He had talked it over with His blood covenant friend, Abraham. Abraham’s prayer. . . is one of the most illuminating and suggestive prayers in the Old Covenant. . . . Abraham was taking his place in the covenant. Abraham had through the Covenant received rights and privileges that we little understand. The Covenant that Abraham had just solemnized with Jehovah gave him a legal standing with God. We hear him speak so plainly, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” All through the Old Covenant we find men who understood and took their place in the Covenant. Joshua could open the Jordan. He could command the sun, moon and stars to stand still in the heavens. Elijah could bring fire out of heaven to consume the ofiering as well as the altar. David’s mighty men were utterly shielded from death in their wars. They became supermen as long as they remembered the covenant. (The Two Kinds of Faith [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969], pp. 76-84)

Kenneth Hagin In John 1:4 we get the first intimation of what this life will do for us: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” There are four different Greek words translated “life” in the New Testament. First, there is zoe. Then there is psuche. That means natural or human life. Bios means manner of life. And anastrophee means confused behavior. It seems strange that the church has majored on “manner of life” or “behavior” rather than eternal life, which determines in a very large way the manner of life. Receiving eternal life is the most miraculous incident in life. Often we call it conversion or the new birth. Some call it “getting religion,” but that’s not what it is, really. It is, in reality, God imparting His very nature, substance, and being to our human spirits. (The God Kind of Life [Tulsa: Faith Library, 1981], pp. 1-2, 9)

E. W. Kenyon

Jesus gave us the first intimation of what this Life would do for man. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” There are four Greek words translated “life” . . . in the New Testament. The first one is psuche which means natural, human life. The second is bios which means manner of life The third is anastrophee which… means “a confused behavior.” It is a strange thing that the Church has majored in “manner of life” or “behavior” rather than Eternal Life which determines in a very large way “the “manner of life.” Receiving Eternal Life is the most miraculous incident or event in life. It is called conversion, the New Birth and the New Creation. Some have called it “getting religion.” It is, in reality, God imparting His very Nature, Substance, and Being to our human spirits. (Two Kinds of Life [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1971], pp. 2-3)

Kenneth Hagin

Man is a spirit who possesses a soul and lives in a body. He is in the same class with God. We know that God is a Spirit. And yet [He] took upon Himself a man’s body… when God took upon Himself human form, He was no less God than when He didn’t have a body. Man, at physical death, leaves his body. Yet he is no less man than he was when he had his body. (Man of Three Dimensions [Tulsa: Faith Library, 1973], no page)

E. W. Kenyon

Man is a spirit being, he has a soul, and he lives . . . in a body. He is in the same class as God. We know that God is a spirit and He became a man and took on a man’s body, and when He did it He was no less God than He was before He took the physical body… Man, at death, leaves his physical body and is no less man than he was when he had his . . . body (The Hidden Man [Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1970], p. 40; Two Kinds of Faith, p. 3)

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The primary purpose of revealing Hagin’s plagiarisms is to prove his verbal and doctrinal dependency upon Kenyon. This book will offer neither theories as to why Hagin plagiarized Kenyon, nor indictments as to the fact that he did so. When he was once confronted with the plagiarism of another writer, Hagin claimed that the appropriate documentation giving credit to the author was omitted from his book “in error.”19 Because of the number and extent of Hagin’s plagiarisms of Kenyon, it seems unlikely that all of them are an oversight. But we are more than willing to concede such a possibility, particularly if Hagin were to admit the extent of his dependency upon Kenyon. His honesty in doing so would give credibility to any claim of having plagiarized Kenyon by accident. It would also do much towards righting the injustice done to the Kenyon Gospel Publishing Society.

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In admitting that he took his theology from the writings of Kenyon, Hagin would also have to acknowledge that his teaching is of human origins. As we shall see, Hagin claims to have received most of the Faith gospel by divine visitation, visions, and revelation. Much of his reputation as a “prophet” in the Faith movement rests upon these experiences. His reputation and revelation aside, however, it must be said that Hagin’s theology has historical roots, and these may be traced directly to Kenyon, whose writings predate Hagin’s by more than thirty years. The word-for-word correspondences between Hagin’s writings and Kenyon’s cannot be attributed to coincidence, nor can they be attributed to a miracle of inspiration by the Holy Spirit. It is inconceivable that the Holy Spirit would inspire Hagin to use another man’s words without also informing him as to who first wrote those words. That man was E. W Kenyon.

In conclusion, it must be admitted that Hagin is the man who single-handedly took Kenyon’s teachings and from them forged a movement, the Faith movement. Hagin’s influence is omnipresent in Faith circles. His mark is printed indelibly upon his countless disciples, such as Copeland, Price, and Capps. Hagin’s son, Ken, Jr., is quite correct in his statement cited earlier that “almost every major faith ministry of the United States has been influenced by his ministry.” What Hagin’s son does not say is that his father plagiarized the majority of his teaching from E. W. Kenyon. If this is true, however, then through the person of Kenneth Hagin, E. W. Kenyon’s teachings are the foundation of the entire Faith movement. Hagin was the key player in the early Faith movement. But Kenyon was the author of its major doctrines.

Consequently, we cannot agree that Hagin’s leadership thereby merits him the title of “father of the Faith movement.” Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin provided the leadership to transform communism into an international movement, but Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels first taught the doctrines on which communism came to be based. Thus, they are today considered the founding fathers of the Communist movement. Likewise, Hagin was the primary leader of the early Faith movement, but he was not the man who first taught its doctrines and thus was not its founding father. Consequently, we must agree with Ruth Kenyon Houseworth that since her father, B. W. Kenyon, was the man who first authored its teachings, he is, in fact, “the True Father of the Faith movement.”

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NOTES

1. Sherry Andrews, “Kenneth Hagin: Keeping the Faith,” Charisma (Oct., 1981), p. 24.

2. E. S. Caldwell, “Kenneth Hagin, Sr.: Acknowledged as Father of the Faith Movement,” Charisma (Aug., 1985), p. 116. It is interesting to note that in a random sampling of Charisma readers concerning those ministers who influenced them the most, Kenneth Hagin was third, ranked only behind TV kingpin and presidential aspirant, Pat Robertson, and the heir apparent of the throne of the Faith movement, Kenneth Copeland. Faith preachers Marilyn Hickey and Fred Price were ranked sixth and ninth respectively, and Robert Tilton, John Osteen and Norvel Hayes were in the top 24. The Faith movement was listed as one of the ten “decatrends” of the charismatic movement. See Kenneth Hagin, Jr., “Trend toward the Faith Movement:’ Charisma (Aug., 1985), pp. 67-70.

3. Hagin, Jr., “Trend toward the Faith Movement,” p. 67

4. Ibid.; italics added for emphasis.

5. Fred Price, taped correspondence, lnglewood, Calif., Feb. 18, 1982.

6. Charles Capps, taped correspondence, England, Ark., Feb. 17, 1982.

7. John Osteen, taped phone interview, Pastor of Lakewood Outreach Center, Houston, Tex., Feb. 24, 1982.

8. Ruth Kenyon Houseworth, taped phone interview, Lynnwood, Wash Feb. 19, 1982.

9. Ibid.

10. John Kennington, “E. W Kenyon and the Metaphysics of Christian Science,” unpublished written statement, Portland, Ore., July 8. 1986.

11. Ibid.

12. Kenneth Hagin, The Name ofJesus (TuIsa: Faith Library, 1981), preface.

13. Kenneth Hagin, The Art of Intercession (Tulsa: Faith Library, 1980), p. 1.

14. E. W. Kenyon, The Two Kinds of Faith (Seattle: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society, 1969), p. 76.

15. Cf., Hagins Six Hindrances to Faith (Seattle: Kenyon’s Faith Library, [n.d.]) to Kenyon’s Two Kinds of Faith, p. 67.

16. Hagin, The Name of Jesus, preface.

17. Cf., Kenyon, The Wonderful Name of Jesus, pp. 8-11, with Kenneth Hagin, “The Name of Jesus: The More Excellent Name,” The Word of Faith (April, 1976), pp. 4-6.

18. Two other authors from whom Hagin has plagiarized are John A. Ma-Millan and Finis Jennings Dake. See ch. 4, pp. 69-71.

19. See ch. 4, pp. 70ff.

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Taken from A Different Gospel, copyright 1995. Used by permission of Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA 01961. You can order A Different Gospel for a total of $14 by calling the Issues, Etc. resource line at 1-800-737-0172.

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The Leaven of Lakewood

“‘I don’t want this to sound arrogant, but I believe one day we’re going to have 100,000 a weekend,” says Pastor Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston .’”[1]

By Rev. Robert S. Liichow

 The Kudos

I want to begin this article by giving credit where credit is due.  When it comes to the Lakewood charismatic mega-church there are aspects of this ministry which must be cited as worthy.  To begin with the church was originally started by John Osteen, who was originally a Southern Baptist pastor but after receiving the “baptism” in/with the Holy Spirit he became enamored with the charismatic renewal movement in its early stage and eventually became associated with the Word of Faith (WOF) cult.  The following commentary was taken from the official web site of Lakewood Church :

 The late John Osteen served the Lord Jesus Christ as pastor, evangelist, author, and teacher for sixty years. Ordained as a Southern Baptist, he received the baptism in the Holy Ghost in 1958, an experience which revolutionized his ministry into a worldwide outreach…John Osteen began Lakewood Church in a dusty, abandoned feed store on Mother’s Day 1959…John Osteen was driven by an amazing love for people of all ages, races, nationalities and walks of life.[2]

One thing is certain in a time of racial division John Osteen opened wide the doors of his church to all people, and all shades and classes of people came.  John, even though he had rejected his Baptist theology (he did actually earn a Masters degree from Northern Baptist Seminary) he never lost sight of the need for foreign missions and his congregation supported and still supports a great deal of foreign mission work.  At the time of his death Lakewood Church had risen to 8,000 members.

I must be honest with you; out of all the WOF teachers my wife and I listened to we enjoyed John Osteen more than most.  He did have a genuine pastor’s heart and a desire to see people come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  We have many of John Osteen’s books and tapes in the DMI archives.  It seems that his seminary education helped keep John from espousing some of the most heretical doctrines that are commonly taught by WOF teachers today.

However, I am under no illusions regarding the WOF “leaven” which John propagated and is unfortunately being further magnified through his son Joel Osteen who took over as Pastor when his father died in 1999.  John was a big crusader for the error of positive confession.  This is a metaphysical belief that we can either create or change our reality by the power of our words, for example he stated the following:

 When they say like they did to Smith Wigglesworth, “How are you feeling today?” He said “Listen, I don’t ask my body how it’s feeling; I tell it how to feel.” And your words should not be to describe the situation; your words should be given to change the situation. And so, read it, meditate upon it, and speak it[3]

I am the sum total of what I have been confessing through the years. My children are the best children that ever lived on the face of the earth.  They are blessed of God.  They are the sum total of what Dodie and I have confessed and loved them into being[4]

 Osteen is on record as fully endorsing the WOF errant concepts surrounding financial prosperity:

It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It’s God’s will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt. It’s God’s will for you to live in health and not in sickness all the days of your life[5]

 In the above sermon we can see the Health & Wealth “gospel” summed up three sentences.  So despite the good things that John Osteen did as a Pastor he got ensnared by the subtlety of false teaching and ended up misleading millions before his death.

Jesus in speaking to His disciples warned them about the leaven of the Pharisees in the following discussion:

Mt 16:6,11-12

Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees… How is it that ye do not understand that I spake [it] not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?  Then understood they how that he bade [them] not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Even though it seems to us that His disciples were a little slow on the “uptake” at times Jesus makes His point crystal clear to them — He was warning them to beware[6], to be on guard against the danger of their doctrinal errors, which Jesus likens to leaven in bread.  Jesus knew that if left unchecked, like leaven in bread, their doctrinal error would spread.  The leaven of false doctrines which he instilled in his son are now expanding and misleading more people than John Osteen could have ever imagined.

The Concerns

Joel Osteen Master of Marketeering

Joel Osteen has absolutely no biblical training or experience to be a pastor.  Charismatic pulpits are filled with people who feel “called” to the pastorate and that is enough for them and those who follow them.  They attempt to build congregations on the “strength” of their calling.  Some charismatic leaders may go on to some unaccredited “ Bible School ” for a year or two, none (which encompasses a large group of ministers) that we were ever acquainted with attended any legitimate seminary.

Would you allow a surgeon to operate on you because he felt “called” to be a surgeon as a child, but never went on to medical school?  Or would you allow someone to build your house who firmly believed God had called him to be an architect yet had never gone on to college to study architectural design?  Of course not, it would be the height of foolishness!

Yet millions of professing Christians are more than willing to follow a man (or woman) who says “God” has called them and has supernaturally equipped them to be ministers. (FWM doesn’t agree with this statement as we believe God can and has called many a man to the Ministry and has used them greatly who never attended any type of Bible College, but we do agree that those same men studied their Bibles daily and learned the Word.)  These especially anointed men and women have no need to study Church history, hermeneutics, systematic theology and struggle through Greek and Hebrew as other ministers do.  They hear directly from God (this is especially true for the sign-gift[7] pastors, most seeker-sensitive churches are led by seminary educated individuals).

So my first main concern is that we have a man in the pulpit of the largest congregation in America , being beamed around the world that has no biblical education or training for the vocation he says he has!  To me we have a clear case of the blind leading the blind (read Luke 6:39) with the end result being masses of people falling into the ditch of spiritual ignorance, abuse and/or extremism.

Joel Osteen made the following statement which ought to be enough to drive 1,000’s of people away from his church:

 Osteen’s upbeat style is deliberate and authentic. ‘Make church relevant,’ he says. ‘Give them something to be able to take away.  I find today people are not looking for theology.  There’s a place for it, [But] in your everyday life you need to know how to live.[8]

 That statement is loaded with seeker-sensitive “code.”  My wife and I left a North American Baptist church of over 1,000 members which had as its acronym “GPARS” which stood for: (1) Grace; (2) People; (3) Authenticity; (4) Relevance and (5) Small groups.

Of course Osteen’s “style” is upbeat, would you expect negativity from a positive confession devotee?  No!  Deliberate, absolutely, he really believes much of the WOF nonsense his father taught him all his life, not to mention whatever offbeat spirituality he may have gleaned from his two years at Oral Roberts University .  Authentic?  Without a doubt!  What you see is what you get.  Joel Osteen is a man without any biblical education but an admitted talent for marketing. 

To be a success in marketing you have to know where people itch and scratch it.  Or, you have to create a desire in them by creating a hunger for something they currently do not have nor formerly knew they needed.  All commercials can be condensed down to one of these two truths.

So to become a mega-church a pastor has to make church relevant.  He has to give the people what they want, something that soothes that spiritual itch.  In order to be a “success” (i.e. large masses of people and money) pastors must preach unchallenging messages that uplift rather than convict.  He must pander to the lowest common denominator and make sure that whatever is taught does not offend anymore at anytime.  What we are seeing is really nothing new, it is a simply fulfillment of 2Ti 4:3-4

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

 This is exactly where multitudes of people are spiritually today.  The above text also helps explain the phenomena of people like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and now, Joel Osteen.

Osteen goes on to say that “I find today that people are not looking for theology.”  Well that is obvious because if they were they would not find any sound theology at Lakewood !  Although he does not reveal to the readers where he found this astonishing fact out, it appears the folks he has talked to have no interest in theology.

Lest you think me a bit harsh let me remind you that theology simply means “the knowledge of God.”  In essence Osteen has said that people are really not interested in learning about God.  Somehow (undoubtedly due to his lack of biblical education) he has made a disconnect between knowing the God of the Bible via sound biblical theology and “knowing how to live.” 

Brothers and sisters, my wife and I can testify to you that the more accurately you understand God within the biblical context the better life you will live before Him.  Tracy and I have a daughter, she does not like to eat certain vegetables but we MAKE her eat them from time to time.  Why?  As her parents, even though somewhat distasteful to her we know that eating them will be beneficial.

The same is true for every man who mounts a pulpit!  God does not tell us to feed the sheep what they want to eat.  Jesus told Peter “feed My sheep,” (see John 21:16).  Jesus said “feed” the sheep not “entertain” them!  We are to give them the Word of God in its totality.  Any pastor can fall into the trap of becoming a people pleaser.  This is why Paul, through the Holy Ghost warned young Timothy in the verse just above the one I cited:  2Ti 4:-2

I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

 Timothy is WARNED to be steadfast in his proclamation of the Gospel to be ready and in his preaching to: (1) REPROVE; (2) REBUKE; (3) EXHORT the people according to the Scriptures.  How? We are to preach with all longsuffering (because such preaching is unpleasant to people’s carnal nature) and with doctrine.  GASP!  Doctrine?  I can hear the seeker-sensitive pundits saying “oh come now, Rev. Liichow, surely you know preaching doctrinal messages is passé?”  Osteen would do well to heed the word of the Lord from a genuine prophet who stated:  Eze 34:2 -3

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel , prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?  Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: [but] ye feed not the flock.

 There are many biblical themes which are very “unpopular” and even politically “incorrect” yet the faithful pastor/teacher will expound on these topics as well so that the flock under his care is receiving a balanced spiritual diet and is able to walk in the full light of God’s Word and not in the shadows.

What is Joel’s educational background and experience?  Since we know his training is not theological, what is it?  He did attend Oral Roberts University for two years, but his area of study had to do with television production and marketing.

 Meanwhile, son Joel, one of six children, was learning the business of television… ‘Growing up, I knew what I wanted to do.  I wanted to be involved in TV production,’ he says. ‘That was just my passion.’  In 1981 he came home from Oral Roberts University (ORU) to start the Lakewood TV ministry.[9]

 For seventeen (17) years Joel was behind the scenes handling all the television and marketing of his father’s ministry.  The next statement from the Charisma article is very revealing:

The younger Osteen’s television-marketing talents and his dad’s preaching skills resulted eventually in the church churches being aired on stations nationwide and in more than 100 countries.[10]

             Joel Osteen had the ability to get his father’s heavily WOF influenced message out all over America and into 100 foreign markets.  Due to this dynamic-duo of folksy preaching/teaching and highly visible presence on television Lakewood Church grew to close to 8,000 members at the time of John Osteen’s death in 1999.

            With his father sick in the hospital, John asks his son, Joel, to preach for him that Sunday.  Initially Joel balked at the idea and said “no.”  He then relented and here are Joel’s own words concerning his preaching that day:

 I just got up there and told stories.  I was so glad when it was over, I said, ‘I’ll never do this again in my life.’[11]

That was the beginning of his public ministry; he just got up and told “stories.”  Joel has been telling stories that have been tickling the ears of the multitudes ever since. Here is how the article describes Joel’s style of preaching:

 The appealing style of Osteen’s personality in the pulpit is unmistakable.  It is part of the reason for the Lakewood ’s current level of success.[12]

Everyone agrees Osteen’s preaching is a key ingredient.  Descriptions of his style include ‘simple,’ ‘down-to-earth,’ ‘practical,’ ‘relatable,’ ‘easy,’ ‘folksy,’ ‘humble.’[13]

It’s 10 a.m. when he began his sermon.  The theme is practical as he gives example after example of the importance of following God’s timing rather than one’s own.  He keeps the tone cheerful, optimistic. ‘God doesn’t want anybody walking out of here today heavy-hearted and downcast,” Osteen says.[14]

Joel Osteen is charismatic in his personality.  He is not a bad looking man, his delivery is as non-threatening as the positive messages he delivers.  Perhaps I am reading in to much yet when I read “practical” it makes me think that he believes teaching theology is somehow “impractical.”  The example after example simple means he tells a lot of stories and anecdotes that somehow relate to the message in which he may cite one or two proof texts to make his point.

It also concerns me when a pastor can make the statement that God does not want anybody walking out of here “heavy-hearted.” My Bible says “godly sorrow worketh repentance…” (see 2 Cor. 7:10).  At times God does want us to walk out of a service “heavy-hearted” if we have been sinning against His will.  We should allow the Word (when properly expounded) and the Spirit (when genuinely present) to break us, to convict us of sinful attitudes and practices. 

However if all you hear is “upbeat,” “cheerful,” and “optimistic” messages there is little opportunity for the Holy Spirit to work conviction in the hearts of the hearers.  This folksy down home non-confrontational type of message also goes a long way in explaining the huge crowds that gather to be entertained. 

Let Us Entertain You

Entertained?  Oh yes, it is not only Joel’s preaching style but the music of Lakewood is an important ingredient in drawing large hoards of people. Once Joel took command of Lakewood ’s already large congregation (between 6,000 to 8,000 members) he began to expand the musical talent as well.

Four years ago, when Cindy Cruse-Ratcliff — former member of the Dove Award-winning Cruse Family gospel group — became Lakewood’s minister of music, the church had only one Sunday morning service…Soon after Cruse-Ratcliff arrived Lakewood expanded when two Sunday morning services were added…’The growth was extremely rapid,’ says Cruse-Ratcliff, who still serves on the 200-member Lakewood. Staff.[15]

 “Star power” brings people to churches as well, especially musical stars and Joel is not ignorant of this fact.  As minister of music Ms. Ratcliff knows people in the contemporary music scene and she no doubt help add to the musical strength of this mega-church by helping bring in some more musical talent:

 Helping to spice up that mix are two of the most prominent names in worship music.  Marcos Witt, who fills stadiums in Latin America for worship concerts was tapped in 2002 to pastor Lakewood ’s 3,000 member Hispanic congregation.  Also adding diversity to the Lakewood staff is Israel Houghton, whose soulful worship anthems are sung around the world.[16]

The music at Lakewood is contemporary.  They have musical stars that appeal to Hispanic (Witt), African-American (Houghton) and Caucasian members (Ratcliff).  The musical team writes many of their own songs and nothing in the article is ever mentioned about hymns.

This is not surprising when you consider that (to our knowledge) no seeker-sensitive or WOF congregation use hymnals at all, apart from the occasional singing of Amazing Grace.  The charismatic movement’s brand of music has infiltrated almost all evangelical congregations that have forsaken the use of the historic hymns.  At our former seeker-sensitive Baptist church we sang songs that originated from the Toronto “revival” and from the Vineyard movement, two examples of some of the wildest expressions within the renewal movement.

Musically speaking there is a method “to their madness” at Lakewood and other mega-churches.  They have a strong emphasis to cut all ties with traditional Christianity.  The classic, highly theological hymns and hymnals virtually scream out the dreaded word “traditional.

Out With the Old, In With the New

  Lakewood and all seeker congregations do not want to be associated with any denominational trappings or any forms of liturgical worship[17].  Many of these churches have even removed crosses from behind their pulpits lest they appear to be too churchy to the seeker. 

In all our time spent among both Pentecostal believers and seeker-sensitive groups we never recited the Lord’s prayer as part of our worship.  We never recited any of the historic creeds of the orthodox Church.  I doubt there are three people who attend Lakewood who could recite the Apostles or Nicene Creeds, probably few know the Lord’s Prayer.  Catechism classes?  You’ve got to be kidding!  In its place some groups may offer a new member’s class, but these classes are usually just general introductions to what the church has to offer the “seeker.”  Osteen being a sign-gift believer offers classes which promote the concept of a second baptism in/with/by the Holy Spirit, but this aspect seems to be soft-peddled as well.

 What Is the Key to Osteen’s Success?

Osteen I believe is probably the first of many WOF devotee’s who has melded the successful marketing techniques of the seeker-sensitive mega-churches with their positive confession health & wealth message.  The blend becomes a potent hybrid that appeals to both sign-gift believers (sort of “charismatic lite”) and baby-boomer seekers.

The message that God wants to bless His children with complete physical health, to give them great financial wealth and to demand little of them regarding their spiritual life is a highly appealing message.  When you combine this with well known Gospel singers, highly orchestrated praise and worship teams in a decidedly non-church atmosphere it will appeal to even a wider audience.

We cannot forget to mix in the vast television footprint that Lakewood church promotes, along with its web site, daddy John Osteen’s books are still in almost all Christian bookstores so it is not difficult to understand how it can gather 30,000 people in Lakewood ’s rented 16,000 seat arena, formerly the home of the Houston Rockets.

What saddens me the most is that one hears little, if any, Law & Gospel proclaimed by Joel at Lakewood Church .  To quote something I remember hearing “dad” Hagin say: “how do you poison a dog?  You put the poison in with the good meat.”  I do not want to press the analogy too far but the reality is that 30,000 people are not being biblically fed a balanced spiritual diet that will promote true growth in their lives.  What you do hear is a synthesis of WOF concepts wrapped up in a seeker-friendly environment by a young man with a winsome smile.

Lastly, we cannot lose sight of the fact that a certain synergy builds with any church when it begins to reach such a size.  People, who have no solid doctrinal foundation, will want to attend the place where “something” is happening (throw in a coffee bar, ice rink and gym does not hurt either).  In America , bigger is better.  After all, many posit, if Joel was not being used of the Lord then why would God allow all these people to come to Lakewood church?

Could it be a sign of God’s judgment on His people who have forsaken His ways?  Often we think of God’s judgment as some divine catastrophe, yet often, and just as catastrophic, is when He simply allows people to have own way.  I believe the words of Jeremiah are applicable to many in the Church today: Jer 2:12-13

Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD.  For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, [and] hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.

 As much as Joel no doubt believes the growth they’ve experienced is due to the blessing of God it really boils down to three simple things, which have nothing to do with God at all: (1) his father’s legacy and an already existing mega-church; (2) Joel’s slick marketing abilities; (3) a biblically errant, but hugely popular message which appeals to the masses seeking to have their ears tickled and experience a “good time” in church.  Please pray for Joel Osteen, like it or not, he currently has a tremendous impact on many people.  Pray the Lord open his eyes to biblical truth and may he take as bold a stand to expose error.

Thank you Rev. Liichow

http://www.forgottenword.org/osteen.html

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