LTRP Note: For several years, Kevin Reeves was an elder at an NAR Latter-Rain church. He writes about his experience in his book, The Other Side of the River.
By Kevin Reeves
These are critical days for the body of Christ. We are in the epoch of church history spoken of by the apostle Paul as “perilous times” (2 Timothy 3:1). What makes the danger all the more imminent is that not much of the church believes it. Many of us have owned the glorious but erroneous vision of an end-times remnant walking in unconquerable power, transforming entire societies. The result has been nothing short of catastrophic. How soon we forget. Every cult in the world has sprouted from the fertile soil of deception, always initiated by a drastic move away from the primacy of the Word of God into the nebulous, self-defining atmosphere of experience. At my previous church, our desire to accumulate otherworldly wealth (i.e., supernatural power) had ushered us into a contrived system of personal spiritual elevation much like such active cults as Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
In the case of my former congregation, our pre-supposed love of the Word of God, along with our ignorance of and opposition to nearly every scriptural warning about false doctrine and seducing spirits in the church, left us open to bizarre teachings and practices. As we embraced mysticism, our biblical parameters melted away. Yes, we were sincere, but what we were wanting was diametrically opposed to our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Like physical signs of pain, there were signs in our church that something was terribly wrong. But just like the person who ignores the pain and avoids going to the doctor, we too ignored what should have been so obvious. That is, until it got so bad that avoidance was no longer an option.
Why do people ignore warning signs? It’s like a motorist painting over his oil pressure gauge so he won’t notice the depleting measure. But the reality of the situation will become evident enough when his engine seizes up, and the car comes to a sudden halt. I’ve discovered that in the spiritual arena most people will do exactly this: they take pains to look the other way when something bumps up against their doctrine. As a Christian, there’s no quicker way to start a fight with a friend than to tell him that some of his most fervent beliefs are wrong. I know. I’ve lost my share of friendships that way. The problem comes when folks aren’t willing to deal with the uncomfortable. And the horror of it is that in spiritual matters, we’re dealing with eternal things. While the person who ruins his vehicle can at least purchase another, the human soul is irreplaceable. . . .
In my own case, association with a cutting-edge group offered me security and personal power, and for years, the paranoia of offending God kept me from asking too many unsettling questions. It’s ironic that, in a fellowship that taught a watered-down version of the fear of the Lord, it was fear that motivated me to stay put.
Many other Christians find themselves in this same predicament, especially those with a genuine heart for the truth. When some doctrine foreign to biblical Christianity is introduced into the congregation, they want to inquire about its origin and validity, but fear holds them in check. If it comes from the pastor, who surely must be more spiritual than the rest of the group, then God must simply have approved it. Therefore, questioning or opposing the pastor or church leadership is seen as opposing the Lord Himself.
But God doesn’t work that way. Throughout the Bible are examples of those who love the Lord who questioned authority when it was wrong. And what’s more, “prove all things” is clearly God’s instruction to the believer (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
This manipulative pastoral attitude of squelching sincere inquiries was recently brought home in a frightening way. A friend of mine attended a local church service, knowing that the pastor was fully in support of the so-called Brownsville revival. She was nonetheless unprepared for the chilling threat from the pulpit. After reminding the congregation of the judgment deaths of Ananias and Sapphira for opposing the Holy Spirit, the pastor looked directly at the congregation and said, “If you think about questioning anything that goes on in this service . . . well, you just be careful!”
Two plus two still equals four. His meaning was quite plain. If you want to end up like that evil-hearted couple, just go ahead and do some serious inquiry into the teachings or manifestations of this group.
Brothers and sisters, something is seriously wrong here. Brutalizing the saints with a threat from an angry heart is not the Bible way. But it is becoming quite a fashionable pastime for leadership to silence even well-intentioned criticism with threats and ridicule. It has been going on for years and has spilled over into many groups in the church today. Name calling and ostracizing are common methods to silence critics. Names like hypocrites, Sanhedrin, and God mockers are merely a sampling of the invective aimed at Christians who are concerned about doctrinal error. Nobody wants to be labeled a Pharisee or heresy hunter. But that is often the penalty for daring to step out and ask for a public, biblical accounting of doctrine and practice.
I know the feeling first hand. I have more than once been called legalistic and have been accused of “going down a hard path”—one of my own making, of course. I had been told repeatedly that I was spiritually immature and had not understood the importance of certain works despite their unbiblical concepts and many outright contradictions to Scripture.
A current river is flowing, which many believe to be of God. Removed from its proper setting in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel, which speaks of a stream gushing out from the Temple of God, this passage in Scripture is today used to promote a last-days vision for the church. In its proper context in Ezekiel, this wonderful prophecy is an encouragement that God has not forgotten His covenant people of Israel. But overstepping the sanctity of scriptural boundaries, this passage has been reshaped into the comfortable doctrines of sensual manifestations that mark a massive shift in the church. As believers, we have taken a hairpin turn from the preeminence of the Word of God to a relative, experiential, and terribly apostate faith.
The River Revival movement—encompassing the Toronto Blessing, Brownsville Revival (or Pensacola Outpouring), Dominion, Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Rodney Howard-Browne’s laughing revival, the Kansas City prophets, [Bethel Church in Redding], and an arbitrary mix of all or some of the aforementioned—is flowing into congregations worldwide. Given impetus by these major doctrinal tributaries, this movement’s teachings have led multitudes away from the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into a dangerous realm of subjective experiences, mysticism, and blatant heresy. Closely follow the curves of this river and you’ll find spiritual deviations at first overlooked. After all the hype, the wild manifestations, the wonderful testimonies, the flamboyant prophecies, and the earth-shaking visions, the discerning eye will gaze upon a farther shore, where an entirely different, frightening story unfolds–a story of broken lives and shattered faith, of rebellion and of merchandising a substitute “anointing.”
(Photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permissions)
Dominionism, Kingdom Now, and What Does the Bible Say? by Mike Oppenheimer
Signs & Wonders! Five Things You Should Consider by David Dombrowski
They don’t want Truth. 🙁
T. I. Miller
It has recently occurred to me that there are 2 extremes of “ear tickling”. The “active” form is all too obvious. A sizable percentage can see right through them. The “passive” form is not as obvious. Every Sunday the pastor gives straight up exegetical teaching. They will boldly proclaim the gospel. They will not, however, always boldly defend it. They will not expose the false teaching/teachers. I think of the Law of Moses. Those who knew of a sin yet remained silent became guilty of the very sin they covered up, Lev. 5:1. They claim that Jesus is their role model. Yet Jesus boldly declared the truth to His detractors and to His followers. He lost the majority of His followers with one sermon, John 6: 53-57.
Yes Jesus prayed for unity for the Church universal in John 17, yet He Himself never hesitated to speak the truth to everyone.
To put it crudely, what good is to fill the pews yet lose some of them to apostasy? i would wager that these passive ear ticklers will not hear Jesus say, “well done”, concerning this topic, for they have refused to do the Father’s will Matt 7. 21-23.
I had the same situation happen to me. A bible study teacher was talking about different bibles and mentioned the Message bible. I said to this group of people that a person need be aware that it is Not a good bible. This teacher would not listen and just stated that it is a paraphrased bible version. I then did my homework and wrote down the many reasons why this bible is so harmful. This teacher would not look at my research and was very harsh with me. I warned him but he just would not receive the truth.
T. I. Miller
” unwilling to deal with the uncomfortable”,
That sums up far to many shepherds and not just shepherds.
Speaking with a well studied brother about the Message so called bible intentionally promoting the new age. He automatically dismissed me. i informed him of several problems. Lord is in 7970 verses in the KJ and my concordance. It is mentioned 70 times in the Message.
He just did not want to accept the possibility that so many could be so wrong.
Glad you found somewhere! Praise God and may you be blessed as you honour His priceless Name. 🙂
Sharon Mckenzie Benjamin
Hello, my husband and I left my church of 39 years a year ago because our new pastor brought in Bethel Redding supernatural school of ministry. It took about five months to find new church.
Absolutely with you Kevin. I enjoyed your book btw. I have left my church after 22 years. I was always so afraid to raise concerns for fear of seeming critical, complaining, lacking in submission etc. Makes me so sad because I feel the sheep are not being properly equipped. I had no choice in the end. I experienced a sort of liberation though strangely. Bless you for making these things known in these troubling times. Much needed, much appreciated! 🙂