Posted by: Damon Whitsell | June 22, 2010
Ex-Word of Faith Testimony of Kevin Rhodes
Kevin is another Ex-WoFer that graduated from Rhema but now is very vocal against the Word of Faith Movement. You can see Kevins website here. ITCHING EARS
We apologize that this testimony would not format correctly, making it hard to read.
My name is Kevin Rhodes. Christ found me at age 12 at a local VBS.
Though I did not understand what was going on inside me I knew there was something real. Teenage life hit hard and at the age of 17 something inside was completely tired of my life and the way it was. I knew I wanted God in it. I began going to a local foursquare church with a neighbor. The church wasa very welcoming place. The majority of the members were retirees and glad to see youth like myself and friends desiring God and sharing what he was doing in our lives. I was dressed like a youth and had long hair.
Regardless of this most of the people loved us as if we were thier own children. The love of Christ truly abounded here.We were given opportunity to share often and it was encouraging. We held services and saw many peoples lives touched in a real way. God did some really cool things. As time progressed, we would join evangelistic tent meetings and revivals in our town. Most were good and fruit was evident. Some however were not.
As time passed, some in our group felt they needed more. Many were from a local Word of Faith church that had turned sour. God had brought these folks to our church and though not as “holy ghost shakin” as thiers was, they liked the people. Thier mentality was that it was not enough to walk in the love of God and see people born again, but they and the rest of us”needed” the fire. We would go twice to the Believers Convention in Fort Worth and to the Motorcycle rally sponsored all by Kenneth Copeland.
We continued local services at our home base and then one day were presented the opportunity to go to a Thursday night youth group at another church, locally. We started going regularly. There were lots of kids that seemed to really love God. They were all cool to us and before long we began helping out as leaders. My friend could not wait to leave the first church and join this one. As we were best friends, I decided to follow suit. Some of our other friends were not inclined to do the same so remained at the former congregation. My best friend told me that this church had a connection with Kenneth E. Hagin, the author of many of the books he was reading. We joined the new church at the beginning of Summer 1996. Some youth leader friends of ours were moving up to Tulsa to attend a bible college called Rhema Bible Training Center in July. I had a vehicle so offered to take these folks and thier stuff up there. I would stay with a friend and attend the seminars. While there, I would sense a leading to attend the school even knowing as little about it as I did.
I came home, packed up and left much to the suprise and dismay of my family. I would receive 2 years of intense indoctrination. I enjoyed the time I was there and the people I met. I do not regret my time there, even now, it was all a part of God’s plan.
During my time at school, my first church, would assist me financially although I had stopped attending. The Rhema church did not. When I would return home, my first church would invite me to share about school with the congregation. I was not even calling it home yet they extended love, care, and compassion regardless.
School was very formal and I worked to support myself through it. I did not pick up on any major flaws with the Word of Faith exept for the controlling nature of the pastor of Rhema Bible Church, Kenneth W. Hagin, the founder’s son. He would instruct the students that they not only could not but would not be allowed to attend any other churches other than his while they were at bible school. He stated that if someone did they would attain nothing after leaving school. He stated that the church would know based on sunday school attendance records and tithing records. As stupid and fearful as I was at the time, I obeyed. This is my number one regret. A few other students did not listen nor did they care. I hated the style of everything at the church but went in fear. I really should have gone to another outreach church there in Tulsa. Such is the power of fear.
Your first year in school is general studies of the “tenants” of faith. It covered courses on money, your position in Christ, bible history, etc. Your second year is the year you choose what direction you thing God is leading you. It could be Youth service, general laity, pastors childrens workers or music ministers. After your second year is almost over, the teachers at the school prepare you to”go out” and spread thier gospel.
I did not know what to do at all so I returned home to work in the Rhema church. During the time I was in school, my parents and younger brother would begin to attend the WOF church. My brother and Dad would be greeter and usher. As I did not have a desire to serve in that capacity, I would opt to help in the Childrens ministry.
After coming back, I could not forget the kind deeds done for me by the good people at my first church. They told me they would love to have me volunteer there and teach sunday school.
I expressed to the pastor at the WOF church my desires and he stated that if I were to leave I would lose everthing I had gained positionally at his church. He said I would have to reclimb the ladder, starting at rung #1.
Once again, I succumbed to fear. However, at every opportunity I would sneak over to the other church to fellowship with them.
As time passed, I would see small glimpses of how the WOF would deal with its people in abusive ways. These corrections or public rebukes stem from Shepherding practices but are used widely in the WOF.
Around this time the prosperity message gained popularity. Global economics were strong and people seemed to be ok with giving in abundance. The WOF church was small and could hardly pack in all the people wanting to come see the excitement. Soon itinerant ministers would come in and “encourage” the congregation to give and give big. We heard it both ways. One way stated that God would curse you for not giving big and tithing. The other way said you would be blessed 10,000 times more than you were. All of it was misinterpreted scripture after the next to dupe people into giving. Before long, Pastor would drive a new car or two. Soon after, a new house. New suits and big donations to other”ministries”. Big preachers.Fancy slogans like “days of heaven in 97″, “it will be great in 98″, “divine in 99″, etc.
I gave away my savings. A friend gave away so much he had his lights turned off and car repo’ed. Where was the church for him? Oh, he must not have had the faith. All the while those at the top dressed to the “T” and ate 5-star.
The church would go through an expansion and get a face lift. Around the same time I would be given opportunity to lead a prosperity bible study at the “college” on the WOF church campus. I loved it and enjoyed it. As I was teaching I would begin to see holes in the doctrines I was teaching but did not know where to go with it. This was Spring of 1999. A friend and roommate from Rhema would return from the mission field back to Lubbock where his brother pastored a church and he had a “word” for me and my best friend. I was always a little cautious as a “word”, while at Rhema could be something encouraging, complete and utter nonsense, or a way to control someone wit words of fear or intimidation.
His “word” would change my life for the better. I don’t think he even knew.
He would challenge me to research the scriptures dilligently to see if what was taught actually was so. He challenged us on the excess taught by all WOF & charismatics. The previous night in our college prosperity class I had seen inconsistencies. It was very fitting and timely. I could hardly wrap up the college course on prosperity. I had to apologize and repent to the class of 4 people. Though I did not see entirely how it was off, it was enough for me to see the fault.
The weeks following I would withdraw from social church activities and serving. Eventually I would stop going to service. I would read the bible for hours at a time, studying with help from expository dictionaries and concordances. I did not study any books besides these, I wanted to know this for myself from the bible.
Before delving into all other subjects, I wanted to talk to my friend and maybe the pastor about what had transpired and my findings. I met with my buddy and talked to him further(he was with me when our friend confronted us) about the false prosperity message. He said he understood my concerns and would talk to the pastor. Upon our meeting the next time he stated that the conversation went something like this: “Everybody has a different revelation on prosperity”. That was it. I pressed him once more to press the issue with the pastor. Could I have had the stomach, I would have talked to him myself. My friend stated that he would not confront him again for fear that he would lose his position in that ministry(he had just been promoted to pastor of a small satellite church in a neighboring town).
For the next several months I would research every “tenant of faith” the WOF claimed. The majority were based on bent scripture and false revelation.
In the years to follow, I would struggle with bitterness. God would have to deal with my heart on the issue and show me the power of deception. I do still believe that when a person is confronted with irrefutable truth and chooses thier own revelation, pride, or financial status over the truth , they are no longer deceived but are willingly in error. They live to serve themselves.
Throughout all of this journey I knew/know Christ is with me longing to do good and right. While I changed, Christ in me did not. He is present to do his will and good pleasure.
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