“Just start making sounds and you will begin to speak through the Holy Ghost.” So I did. At first it seemed I was just making nonsense, but I definitely felt something take over and I started loudly speaking with whatever was going through me. Looking back now, I realize that something more sinister had an effect on me at that moment, and I had opened myself up to spiritual things that didn’t line up with scripture.” – Max
Like many NAR victims, Max experienced something demonic. Unfortunately, his story gets worse.
Max’s story is among several additional “Leaving the NAR” testimonies I’ve received since I wrapped up the series earlier this summer. Each is as painful to read and share as the next. These stories are precious to me, and serve as a painful reminder that there is hope for the dear deceived ones caught up in this insidious movement. In this series, I’ve been taking readers beyond the textbook What is the New Apostolic Reformation Movement explanation, into the personal experiences from those who have been there, and what happened when God opened their eyes to the truth.
Here is Max’s story in his own words:
From before I can remember I had grown up around charismatic movements. I was born in the early 80s, and the church I first remember was a non-denominational charismatic church. My family went here until I was 5 or so, but I still remember the services. We were going in and out of my grandfather’s church at the same time. My grandfather’s church was very small, non-affiliated and ultra-weird (even to me as small child). Some songs were sung completely in ‘tongues’. I loved my grandfather though, and accepted this as just ‘different’ from my other church experiences. My parents had disagreements with him, as he wanted them to be part of the leadership there, and so they went searching for a new ‘permanent’ church home.
When I was 7, my parents took our family to a Southern Baptist church. The biblical teaching we received there was a very important stabilizer in my life as a young child, but I didn’t realize how important it would become later in my early 20’s. At the age of seven, I got an aggressively strong virus that blinded me in my right eye. The scarring was permanent, and for 5 years my parents faithfully took me to doctors to see what could be done. Being young and now having a disability, I felt awkward and out of place at school, and my natural shyness didn’t help.
But thankfully during this time of my life I accepted Christ at 7, and I understood my sinful nature and the gift that Christ gave us through His death, burial, and resurrection. I was baptized in the church after my public profession, and was active in the church throughout the week. My favorite times were ministering through our church’s annual Christmas program. Thousands of people would come through and watch over multiple weekends, and the Gospel message was presented every night. This simple, yet powerful message of the Gospel is all that we need to bring people to their knees in repentance and their understanding of their sinful nature, all through God’s leading. But, my parents seemed to be seeking more than this.
All during these years at the Baptist church, my parents were watching Jim Bakker’s PTL and Kenneth Copeland. I just remember Kenneth Copeland being a loud and angry guy on the TV, so I didn’t pay him much attention. My parents found TBN and through that medium, came upon Benny Hinn. His how was on almost every night. One night at about age 10 or 11, I put my hands on the screen as he had directed and said, “Someone’s eye has just been healed”. I was startled and honestly scared. My parents looked at me and said, “So did it work?” to which I replied, “I don’t know.” Apparently that was ‘doubt’ and I didn’t received my healing as it was explained to me, not in a demeaning way, but they were just telling me the ‘truth’. I was heartbroken then, but as a parent today, I am angered that I was allowed to go through that. I began to question later in my 20s about, “Why didn’t I get healed as a child? I had faith like a child. Why didn’t God do what I asked?” I couldn’t get an answer out of the Word of Faith teaching other than I was at fault somewhere, and I needed more faith.
So at 13, my parents took me and my younger brother and sister ‘church hunting’. Eventually, we came to a new and growing non-denominational church where my parents were active in parts of the ministry within the first year. At that time in the mid-90’s this church was not considered NAR or Word Faith, and even looking back now, at its founding, the church was never adhering to those doctrines.
My mother joined the praise team, and my father became a lead usher during services. This was a very loving church and I gained some friendships through the youth ministry there. The church wasn’t openly charismatic, but leadership within the church did operate in some of these manifestations, mostly tongues, but not during a Sunday service. Outside of this, there was nothing too extreme to make me question the church as a young teenager. But my parents still wanted more. During our 7 years at this church my parents were going to Word of Faith meetings all around where we lived. My brother, sister and I would go with them and partake in multi-hour prayer services and teachings from traveling preachers. Most of these were ones we saw on TV, and my parents had been dumping money into all of these ‘ministries’ getting books and tapes. A lot of the ‘name it claim it’, miracle healings, and prosperity gospel were being spouted out to the listening masses.
I was in my teens and seeking acceptance and wanting ‘more’ than I was experiencing in my current life; based solely on the teachings my parent had in the house (ex: spiritual gifts/supernatural wealth/speaking words of faith/healing). At one meeting, I was ‘baptized in the spirit’ and was in a room where they taught anyone who wanted to learn to ‘pray in tongues’ to stand and wait to receive. The person leading everyone said, “Just start making sounds and you will begin to speak through the Holy Ghost.” So I did, and at first it seemed I was just making nonsense, but I definitely felt something take over and I started loudly speaking with whatever was going through me. Looking back now, I am kind of ashamed to have allowed this to happen, but again I thought I had to get more from God than He had given at the time of my salvation. I realize now that something more sinister had an effect on me at that moment, and I had opened myself up to spiritual things that didn’t line up with scripture as being God-given. For indeed if there were tongues being said aloud, why was there no interpretation?
I stayed in the non-denominational church with my parents through my early college years. I had become part of the college music ministry as well as the regular Sunday praise team. I enjoyed playing instruments during worship, and felt this was my gifting for the church. So, when my parent’s decided to leave for a young start-up Word of Faith church as worship leaders, I was all on board. This was great in my estimation: a church that believes what we were learning through the TV teachers and we could be there at the start. Well, for a year we were part of this church, and I noticed some indicators (even then) that let me know something was wrong. People would run around the small sanctuary during ‘worship’, people would laugh at random during service, and many would appear ‘drunk in the spirit’. It culminated into a lot of noise and chaos, with little to no change in any lives that participated.
One particular moment that made me start to second-guess my theology was when a traveling ‘prophet’ came to the church. He had a ‘word of prophecy’ for everyone in the church (it only had 20-30 people at the most). He gave an overly obtuse prophecy to a man in attendance; a man who I knew firsthand was not a Christian and was dragged to that service by his wife. His wife told everyone earlier that she was hoping that he’d come to church and get saved. After the ‘prophecy’ about how this man was going to be used to spread the gospel and his ministry was going to do this and that, the man sat in his chair, said to the prophet, “You’ve been annoying me all night”, and just laughed at him. I realized at this point that the ‘prophecies’ were just a bunch of hokum by this charlatan. But he was part of the ministry that I had learned how to speak in ‘tongues’ through, so what was I supposed to do with that knowledge?
Another oddity in the church that I didn’t understand at all was the pastoral worship. Members of the church were required on the pastor and his wife’s birthdays to bestow gifts upon them in front of the church. We also told to call them our church father and mother. This was strange at the time, but now I realize members of the church were now considering the pastor as “the Lord’s Anointed”. My parents weren’t having any of that and soon after, we were again on the road for ‘stability’.
Our next church was an Assemblies of God church. I liked it and eventually met my wife through there. The pastor even officiated our wedding. Even though the AG is charismatic, they took stances against the Word of Faith teachings, but this didn’t stop my parents from attending ‘Word’ meetings on the side. My wife’s family went to the same AG, but was part of and contributing to WOF ministries.
The church had vibrant worship and from what I could tell sound doctrine. Slowly though, the pastor started referencing books from Rick Joyner and he began to preach about being prepared for some form of impending disaster that would wipe out civilization or at least cripple the world. So the church opened a food bank and also sold dry goods for The Long Emergency (as the church was calling it). The pastor relayed his visions of something bad that was going to happen, and we trusted him. My wife and I bought (as well as hundreds of others) bins, tins and barrels of food and water for ‘just in case’. Looking back now it was crazy, but we were hearing him teach about the coming days and the future kingdom. Ricky Joyner books began to be sold in the bookstore along with other prophetic literature. Needless to say, no Long Emergency came as he had predicted, and there was no apology. Seems the church just kept moving as if it was never taught. I still have a few bucket of beans and banana chips in the garage to this day.
So my wife and I had a child without complication after 3 years of marriage. However, we started to experience heartbreak when we attempted to have another child. We began having a series of miscarriages. This was a nightmare for my wife. As she would conceive and the child would develop, we’d pray over the baby and ‘declare words of faith’ over them. My mother would tell us that ‘everything is fine with the child and we’ll have it.’ But then we’d lose the child a few months in. It was devastating and we were both trying to figure out why. Were we not saying the right things? Was this an attack of the Enemy? Did we lack faith in the ‘word’? Well this process led my wife into deep depression and we had a family member come to house to minister to her. This family member ‘removed spirits’ off of my wife’s ‘mind’. My wife went from being sedated to cackling and screaming at the family member.
Whatever was happening was not of God. The family member was calling spirit’s by name, and I was in the other side of the house with our toddler trying to keep them calm. It was a terrifying experience to listen to, and it seemed to make things worse. The family member was doing what they thought was Spirit-led, but I know now it was actually ‘spirit-led’. My wife even says to this day that she has never felt right after incident. Only after reading your resources and information do I realize we had opened the doors to the occult through that experience.
We eventually had a second child, but a series of miscarriages again led us through a lot of hurt. During this whole time we had been giving to different Word of Faith ministries, but to what effect? We never got help from them and never got encouragement from them, only offers to buy more or sow more seed. My parents had called these ministries to have them pray for success and life on the children we were hoping for, only to lose them. But no follow up, not encouragement. After the phone calls to them: nothing. Didn’t seem like they wanted to bother with the failures (I can only assume). My wife was done with the doctrine long before I was, and I was trying to be the strong husband and shepherd of the flock at home so to speak. But the cards were crashing and I didn’t know where to turn. I couldn’t go to my parents because they would just try to give me books and CDs from some preacher here or there. My brother had long since left the charismatic movement and was out of town going to a Baptist church. He seemed to be my only person that I could talk to in the family. He was the youngest child and I was the oldest, so I naturally tried to toe the line and follow my parents’ wishes, while he did as he pleased. He was considered a black sheep doctrinally.
I began, in almost a shameful way, to watch YouTube videos from people described as ‘heresy hunters’ by the angry comments beneath them. They were videos of John MacArthur and other ministers denouncing the NAR and ‘Strange Fire’ movements. At first I was angry at how they were attacking these ministers and ministries I had listened to all these years. But I knew, deep down, they were right. I kept watching, and ‘stumbled’ upon Pirate Christian Radio and then the bereanresearch.org pages. The scales came off so to speak. Now I was definitely angry. Angry at the wasted years pursuing such shams of faith. Angry for the many years of struggle my wife and I went through trying to tie our pregnancy issues with a worldview from a Word of Faith teaching. Angry at how I denied the facts of situations. I had been telling my wife that everything was going to be fine, everything was good, and she wasn’t suffering with depression. I was lying to her and myself, and she was physically and mentally broken and I wasn’t helping. We had no family support, because they were all doing the ‘holy’ thing and denying our miserable situation and only speaking positive thoughts. And for me, nothing was adding up. But God is good and I began to seek Him straight from the pages of the Bible.
2 Timothy 4:1-5 was a passage I had never read. It was not taught and I never heard any of it referenced during any time a the AG or Word of Faith churches. I now know why.
The problem with the NAR and Word of Faith worldview is a self-centric mindset. What can God do for me? How can I get something else out of this relationship I have with God for my benefit? It should be: what can I do for God? Who else can I tell the Good News of Christ’s Redemption? And the tent poles of the WOF beliefs have no strength or answers for when healings don’t happen or when financial situations arise other than to blame to persons in the situation for lacking faith or not sowing enough, praying enough, saying the right things. It’s very judgmental when your life doesn’t float down the river like they say it should.
My parents and some of my other family members are still trapped in the WOF teachings. I can’t get them to listen because they say I am just struggling with faith. They don’t see the money trap they are in. It hurts because they deny there is any problem in our family and that everything is okay, regardless of how bad things are falling apart. Marriage Issues? = “Everything’s Fine!” Cancer in someone’s body? = “Everthing’s Fine!” Sexual Sin hidden in the family? = “Everything’s Fine!” It’s a sick way to live your life denying the existence of an issue that needs to be dealt with biblically and through prayer. Never once did I feel led to tell others about Jesus when I was under the Word of Faith teachings. Never. I was just concerned what I was going to get out of God for myself.
I had walked blindly now for over half my life under the false doctrines and heretical teachings, and I thank God for sound biblical teachers, and looked back at my formative years under the Baptist church teaching. Salvation is the greatest miracle of God. Jesus was the greatest gift; nothing else is needed to make it any more perfect. The Holy Spirit is a blessing and encouragement for each of us daily, not a device that can be switched off and on when I need something.
After the AG church, my wife and kids had gone back to the non-denominational church of my teenage years, but I began to realize that the NAR church had dug its tentacles in since I had been away. The church was involved in “Leadership Summits” and other things that I began researching and saw all the trimmings of seeker-friendly mantras and dictates. After seeing a video for the Global Leadership Summit at Bill Hybel’s church during our church announcements, I knew we had to go. My wife agreed with what I was seeing and we left and haven’t looked back.
My family has found a church that teaches the Bible verse-by-verse and does not stray into NAR waters. Sound teaching is hope and encouragement. The Word of God in its entirety, not pulling out pet verses out of context to make your case, has been life to my family. I am learning the study of apologetics. I never felt like I got a complete explanation of the Christian faith until I began exploring the biblical text in a complete manner.
At first I was frustrated with you and what your ministry and partner pages were doing, but again I am thankful to God for your beacon of hope for those needing to find a way out of the insidious chains of the Word of Faith worldview. After listening to sound teaching and studying correctly, I feel the desire to spread the message of salvation that I never felt under the bondage of charismania and the Word of Faith.
Author’s Note: You can read the entire series of NAR testimonies here.