In 1995 the Vineyard Church in Kelowna, BC was really “rocking”. We attended a huge conference at that time and observed everything the manifestations movement had to offer: Shaking, quaking, stuck to the floor, animal noises, cock-a-doodle-doing, roaring, loud praying, prophesying, along with good teaching and occult teaching mixed together.
An apparently demon-possessed man that no one on the ministry team could handle, loudly mocked God, while the late “apostle” and founder of the movement, John Wimber chatted on, as if nothing was wrong! What a hodgepodge! What a noise level! Meetings went on and on for hours at a time, well into the night.
We enjoyed some parts of the long worship sessions which included some of the old and loved hymns of the church and good praise choruses. On the downside there were also catchy tunes that had little to do with Christianity, but were mixed in anyway. Rather than exalting God, most of these were seeking blessings for the people. Some songs were so “off”, we couldn’t even sing the heretical words! A real mix!
Dancers lined the balconies in an uninhibited display, leaping and twirling and waving banners until some began jerking and falling down on the floor. The audience ate it all up and joined right in, jostling for floor space when the chairs were stacked up. Bodies everywhere! Screaming, yelling, moaning and groaning. It was quite the experience. It was intense, but was it really the Holy Spirit at work?
We recorded our concerns about the extra-biblical manifestations and doctrines of the Vineyard in our original booklet, “Viewing the Vineyard”.
We felt it was time to return to the same location and observe what had transpired in the six years since. We already knew that momentum like that is like wildfire, hot and quick, and soon burned out. Since few conferences are presently being held, we went to a two-hour Sunday Service.
What did we find? We found good attendance, probably between 500-600 people. The bulletin reported that the last week’s offering was over $20,000. We smiled when we saw the offering envelope, which lets you give via Master Card/Visa. Not a bad idea! Apparently the Youth usually have their own service, but were included in this one.
A worship team, which can only be described as “heavy metal” was on the platform performing. They put on a real display, building in intensity until the pounding base beat pulsated the whole building. They repeated the “mantra” type of “praise choruses”, which included such phrases as “I will dance, I will sing, to be mad for my King”, and “I’ll become even more undignified that this, Na, na, na, na, na, na HEY!”.
The women dancers were there on the balcony but their presentations were nicely choreographed, the moves and the flags all matched. Well rehearsed.
The audience was the most telling. Yes, some got up and bopped in the aisles to the pounding beat, some stood, some clapped, but many just sat silently through the whole worship service, many not even singing at all. There was not one manifestation from any of the audience, and little noise. We heard not one recognizable song.
The Pastor asked for volunteers from the audience who had experienced Christ’s deliverance to come forward and dance for the Lord. Four women responded, and one of them thanked Christ for delivering her “again” that week. This type of testimony comes of the wrong teaching that Christians need deliverance (more on that later). The Pastor, obviously disappointed in his appeal, pleaded for men to come forward, but none responded, to “dance for the Lord”.
The young children, of which there were many, were called forward for children’s church. There was quite a long shuffle before all were assembled at the front. Just as they were to be dismissed, a man walked up to the Pastor and whispered in his ear. The Pastor informed us that this man had a “word from the Lord”.
As soon as he was handed the microphone he sent all the children back to their parents for his “word”. Again, a lengthy shuffle. When all settled down again, as if on cue, he began to shake, fling his arms around, move his body in snake-like waves, and jump up and down. Two of the ministry team held him on either shoulder and he began to “prophecy” in a suitably quavering voice. Such a display!
I have to confess I had to stifle a big smile, as the first time we monitored the Vineyard, most of the prophecies were about “breaking down the walls”. Here, the message had turned around and now we were told to “build walls” . He finally wound down, returned to normal, and took his seat. Show over.
We wondered what the Pastor would say, who didn’t look too pleased when the children were told to return to their parents and then he had to recall them, but he put on a brave face . We couldn’t believe it, but he actually said how pleased he was that there were manifestations in the meeting, credited the Holy Spirit with it all, and concluded “we love it”.
Instead of a sermon, we listened to a returned missionary and his family, including two adopted children from Africa. The missionary reminded the audience that his adopted son was 16 and could sure use a car.
The missionary’s wife became very excited during her part and, unbelievably exhorted us with the following (paraphrased) “word of knowledge”. She stated over and over that “Satan tells us that we are invaluable, but God knows we are valuable”. Someone should have told the poor dear that the word “invaluable” means “a value beyond estimation, very precious”. It does not mean “without value”. There was no correction from the Pastor, just acceptance.
That composed the “spiritual food” for the hungry congregation. They were exhorted however, to get really involved with the new “Prophetic” arrangement and forms were available at the back. I quickly got my copy.
There is no doubt where the emphasis of this Vineyard Church is–on prophecy. They are trying to bring some order to this obviously, with a Prophetic Department, Prophetic Intercession, prayer meetings, prophetic mentorship classes once a week, a six-week School for prophets, a prophetic scribe, and finally a prophetic council who reviews submissions from “prophets”.
We picked up the synopsis of prophecies for the past 5 months. People were exhorted to “violently enter God’s rest” (like Joshua…?). Somehow God’s rest doesn’t seem to go along with the word “violent”, but they think it does. “War Cries” were apparently heard, and they dutifully “prophetically acted it out”. (Whatever that entails!) Dreams were submitted and interpreted to mean a “new level of power evangelism”. The whole congregation was called to warfare on behalf of their children, an “offensive war, not a defensive one”. Nowhere in the “New Life Prophetic Bulletin” was there even one Scripture about the Biblical warnings about false prophets.
Upon arriving home, we had a brochure in our mail inviting us to the “Dunamus” (also spelled “Dunamis”) Conference.
The brochure promises “power”. One speaker, David Hogan from Mexico supposedly “has seen the Lord raise up decomposed bodies into life”. He and his team have reportedly “raised the dead, healed the sick, cast out devils, and led entire villages to Christ”.
We have to observe that when claims like this are made, they are not substantiated, always seeming to occur conveniently out of camera range, in a far away country, undocumented by professionals in the medical field. Who is going to go to some remote village in Mexico to get the facts? Not likely anyone attending the conference!
Other speakers are supposedly “acquainted with third heaven experiences”, so expect “prophetic downloads of Dunamis at this conference”. Signs and wonders seekers will be intrigued at this statement no doubt!
Another speaker has supposedly “personally experienced revelation concerning the Voice of the Lord that is able to shake the UNIVERSE”.
Well, enough hype, you get the picture. Spiritually hungry people who base their faith on their feelings are endless fodder for conferences of this type. Caution is thrown to the wind, while everyone hopes for a “high”. Clear Biblical teachings are set aside in favor of “revelations” and “prophecies”.
What warnings does the Bible have to protect the flock?
The Bible clearly sets out the guidelines for believers.
First, test the Prophet for accuracy:
“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. (Deut. 18:18-20).
Verse 20 plainly says, “that prophet shall die”. False prophecy cannot be treated lightly. Anything less than 100% accuracy is unacceptable. (The Holy Spirit does not make mistakes!).
The Bible reveals three sources for prophecy. One, it is from God, and inspired by Him. Two, it is from the Devil and inspired by him. Thirdly, prophecies can come out of “the flesh” or out of our “own spirit”. No “prophet” wants to think his words are from the Devil, so his “mistakes” are then dismissed as being out of his “own spirit”.
However prophesying out of one “own spirit” is detestable to God. Read over Ezekiel, chapter 13, which is a judgment of God on prophets who hope for a fulfillment of their words, after prophesying “out of their own spirit”, falsely. Verse 8 concludes,
“Because you have spoken falsehood and seen a lie, therefore, behold, I am against you declares the Lord God”.
No wonder Jesus commands us in Revelation 2:2, to “…put to the test those who call themselves apostles”, and “…beware of the false prophets”.
These warnings are sounded over and over again, and we as individual Christians are responsible for ourselves to test such ones! Take responsibility!
We recommend that Christians limit their acceptance of teaching or prophesying to what is clearly defined in the Bible. Psalms 119:89 says, “Forever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven”. Verse 105 continues, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path”. Verse 160 says, “The sum of Thy word is truth, and everyone of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting”.
The gospel was “fully preached” in the days of the original apostles. (Romans 15:19). The Apostle Paul goes on to instruct us to “…learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant, in behalf of one against the other”. While building on the foundation of Jesus Christ, why not build with the best–the reliable word of God, “learn not to exceed what is written”. Don’t be “arrogant”.
MINISTRY OF THE VINEYARD
One teaching popular in the Vineyard Movement, but not supported by the Bible, is the teaching of “deliverance” for Christians. We believe this teaching to be harmful to the body of Christ, and sound the following warning.
Nowhere in the Bible has one Christian delivered another Christian of anything at anytime! Christians, with the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling them, always delivered unbelievers, or persons seeking salvation and needing deliverance. Christians never “delivered” other Christians in Bible times, so why would we want to start now? Not only are there no recorded instances of one Christian delivering another, but according to God’s Holy Word, demons have no power over true Christians.
We are composed of body, soul, and spirit, according to the Bible. Could demons possible invade any of these areas? The Bible assures us they cannot! 1 Thessalonians 5 :21-23 says this:
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Sanctify” means to be made clean, spotless, and holy. God has sanctified us in every area, body, soul, and spirit. Demons cannot invade where God dwells.
Are you born-again? Yes? Then the devil cannot even TOUCH you. 1 John 5:18, 19 says, “…but He who was born of God keeps him and the evil one does not touch him. We know we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”
It is the world that is in the power of the evil one, not Christians. We are sanctified completely in the power of God, and the evil one cannot touch us. However, there is one way that the evil one can harass us, and that is if we give him permission, by giving mental assent to the idea that he can influence our lives.
If you have been going against the word of God by allowing “deliverance”, repent of it now, and ask God’s forgiveness. If you feel harassed, quote the word of God to the demons, that’s what Jesus did when the devil tempted Him. (Matthew, chapter 4:1-11).
Since the New Testament so clearly does not teach “deliverance” for Christians, those performing this act try to justify it by Old Testament references about “curses” etc.
Let’s clear that up now. Exodus 20:5. says:
“You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me.”
First off, notice what the subject of the verse is–true worship versus false worship. Who gets the “iniquity” visited upon the third and the fourth generation? The answer is plain– “those who hate Me”. Do you hate God? You don’t? You say you love God? Great–then you could not possibly ever have any kind of “iniquity” visited upon you–and who says these are demons anyway? Not any Bible dictionary I have read!
There is further good news in the next verse, Exodus 20:6, “but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments”. If you love God and keep His commandments, verse 6 applies to you, not verse 5. You are the recipient of God’s loving kindness, and nothing sinister can penetrate God’s protection of you. The idea that some kind of “ancestral spirits” can influence your life today is taught by some in the Vineyard, but dismissed by Ezekiel 18:20,
“The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.”
(See also Deuteronomy 24:16).
All this agrees completely with the New Testament teaching that we are each a “new creature in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a new creature in Christ at the time of our salvation, we need no longer fear the devil. He has no power over us, as we renounce our former ways and repent We are new, and we are clean. Our ancestors likewise have no power over us.
In fact, the demons may not be to blame at all, for whatever you are trying to get “delivered” from. If a Christian continues to have unclean thoughts etc. then we need to look to the condition of our own hearts.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man”. Mark 7:21-23; (See also Matthew 15:18,19; Jeremiah 17:9,10).
This is difficult for some who always want to put the blame elsewhere, on the Devil, or ancestral spirits etc., rather than on themselves, with their “own heart” as the source. There is a cure for this uncleanness or bad behavior for a Christian and that is the biblical way–not a questionable “deliverance”, but, as Ephesians 5:25-27 says,
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless.”
All of us desire to be Christ’s bride, His wife. If we really love Him, we need to obey Him. Our cleansing comes from “washing of water with the word”. It does not come from anything other than what He says it comes from–“washing of water with the word”. Christians fall prey to wrong doctrine and practices when they do not have enough of God’s word, the Bible, in their hearts and lives. It’s not too late to turn to the word of God for help in every circumstance. Hebrews 4:12 says,
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Christians, do not think that anything– experiences, prophesying, manifestations, or feelings can replace the sure anchor of the word of God. It is two-edged, both for offense and defense of all things. Abide in Christ, and abide in His word. Keep your relationship with Jesus Christ pure and undefiled, for that is what He is seeking in a bride.
So, Christians must ask, “Do we belong in the Vineyard where there is a mixture of the good and the bad? Can we really be discerning enough to take the good, and ignore the bad? Do we know the Bible so well, that we will not be out in areas where we should not be? Will we have a servant’s heart like Christ, reaching out to the lost and dying, or become self-seeking and inward-looking, even with the best of intentions? Will we take to heart the warning words of the bible that “…a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough”?
Ask yourself, has God ever allowed a mixture of true and false in any of His congregations in times past? Does God ever change? (Malachi 3:6) We are sobered by the words of the Apostle Paul:
“….you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Cor. 10:21)