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Grow in Christ

Why I Left the Charismatic Church

Madelein Wolfaardt

I grew up in “happy-clappy” churches. My family church-hopped a bit when I was in primary school. In high school, we got more and more involved in churches that followed the Word of Faith movement. They often invited big names from overseas. We would attend these prophetic or healing and miracle services. We also watched tapes of their so-called ‘Revival meetings’.

My aunt ended up forming her own doctrine around the word of faith and some of her own ideas she thought up. This became a full-blown Cult, luckily with few followers, but the damage that was done to people's lives was still immense. My family, unfortunately, also got involved with this group.

Since this was all I ever knew as a child growing up, I have quite a lot to say on this topic. But in this article, I will keep it short. I will be sharing parts of my personal journey of why I left the charismatic movement. Not to offend but in the hope of relating to anyone who is experiencing the same things.

Good Intentions

I had the best intentions, I honestly wanted to be more spiritual, and please God. I truly believed that these preachers were anointed by God, and that I too, can one day, become a prophet or a healer. And so most people caught up in this movement have good intentions or may be vulnerable or desperate. The healing services in particular prey heavily on desperate people.

Things didn’t Feel Right

Throughout the years, I’ve always had an uncomfortable feeling, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I would then ignore it thinking that it was the devil trying to throw me off track. Things just didn’t feel right. I felt trapped and not truly free.

There were questionable things that our church leaders, as well as these famous preachers from overseas, did that made me wonder. But in these circles, you’re not allowed to question things, especially not the preachers because then you’re questioning the anointed of God.

Let’s be real, does a preacher really need a private jet and gold-plated buttons on his shirts? Is it okay to be a highly regarded leader who is wonderful at church and has a ‘direct line of communication with God’, but at home you’re abusive to your spouse and children? Can you be sinful and manipulative and still be a true spiritual leader to people? The answer is a resounding “no”.

Blindly Following

We were not encouraged to study the Bible, instead, all emphasis is placed on the pastors. People blindly follow them and accept what they say. These preachers sometimes come up with preposterous ideas and added extras to their doctrines which are always accepted by their followers. This means that you are following and idolising a person, and not following God.

People in this movement would rather believe the preacher’s words and their own experiences above what the Bible teaches. I’ve seen this numerous times, showing people that what they believe is actually in contrast to what the Bible teaches. To which they would answer “But I felt it, I experienced it and you won’t convince me any different”. This means that you reject the Bible as the Word of God and the final authority.

If you experienced or felt something, that doesn’t mean it's true or even of God. Emotions can be manipulated, as for experiences, there are many pagan religions where people experience the same or similar things like falling over, trances, visions, laughing fits, speaking in unknown languages and the like. Are these experiences then truly the work of the Holy Spirit?

We were always chasing the next high. Because it didn’t last long. There were no real changes in my life as a result of my spiritual experiences. It's all very superficial.

A massive amount of attention is placed on feeling. Feeling trumps thinking. Don’t try being logical. You just have to have faith. This is just another way for these preachers to gain control and manipulate people.

Another thing that happens in these circles is that the pastor or any random person would come up to you and say that “God told me to tell you…” this or that. Well if God told you, who am I to disagree? This went quite far sometimes and wrecked people's lives. I know of a few couples that got married because “God told” the pastor or some random fellow church member that they are meant to be together. Or that they need to quit their job and become a missionary, have a child and so on. People then fall for this, because well, you follow blindly. You don’t want to miss or reject the plan that God has for your life, so you go along with it. And it ended badly for many people I knew.

It’s Your Fault

If things ended badly, like the couples I mentioned above, then it was their fault. They did not follow God’s plan correctly, or they did not have faith. The person who said “God told me…” is never in question. The false prophet whose prophecy did not come true is never in question, there’s always some excuse.

The people who did not speak in tongues or did not fall over when prayed upon were too logical and they were not ‘spiritual enough’. They lacked, you guessed it, faith.

If you are not healed at a healing service, you did not have enough faith or give enough of your money. It’s even said that you are not healed because you have sin in your life.

The Final Push

My mother was diagnosed with cancer, the cancer was very aggressive and progressed very quickly. The doctor's reports as well as my mother's reaction to the chemo showed us very clearly that she did not have long to live. But some prophecies went out at church that said my mother would live, and that it would be a big testimony of what God can do. Me and my family desperately and blindly held onto this promise. We ignored the reality of our situation because if we were to acknowledge it, we would be seen as not having enough faith for my Mother to be healed. I for one did not want to be the cause of her death.

Many people dropped by during this time to come and pray for her to be healed. It never worked. Apparently, the reason for this was that she did not have enough faith. She had sin in her life and this was in the way of her healing. Or maybe we didn’t have faith, or the person doing the praying did not have the gift of healing or enough faith. “Sigh.”

Around eight months later, my mom passed away. The church held a special meeting where they were to supposedly have explained why their prophecies did not come true and why their healing prayers did not heal her. These self-proclaimed prophets, people who speak directly with God and who were anointed with the ‘gift of healing’ had to save face. I never went. That was the final straw for me. I knew that something was horribly wrong and I did not want any part of that. I was very hurt and blamed God. I never went back to any church again.

I heard from someone afterwards that the excuse for her not being healed was that my mother died and went to heaven and met with God and he gave her the option of coming back or staying with him, and she chose to stay. What a convenient lie. It just flabbergasts me the lengths to which these so-called prophets would go. Needless to say, I didn’t fall for that.

Distance Brings Perspective

Being away from the church was the best decision I made. The longer I was away from the church, the people and that environment, the more perspective I gained on everything that was really going on. I slowly started to realize how blind I was and the massive impact it all had on my life.

The fact that it took something like the death of my Mother to make me realize I was being misled, goes to show how deeply manipulated I was.

The big problem for me now was realizing and accepting that I need to forget everything that I’d ever believed and start over.

Making Sense of it All

I had to forgive the people who were involved and move on. It’s pointless to try and build on the faulty foundation that was there already. I needed to put everything behind me.

This was one of the most difficult times in my life. Along with the death of my Mother, I had to deal with the fact that something that played such a big role in my life has been a lie. I delved into finding the truth for myself. So, I started reading and doing research.

Among others, I read John MacArthur’s book called Charismatic Chaos. This book helped me to see things for what they were. It’s not about God or helping people, it’s all about the money. It’s not God and the Holy Spirit at work. It’s a business. It’s a show. It’s the manipulation of emotions and group dynamics.

Another great read is an old booklet written by Alfred H Pohl and it’s called 17 Reasons Why I Left the Tongues Movement. This booklet is non-confrontational and very clear.

I also found a testimony on YouTube by Costi Hinn, he is Benny Hinn’s nephew. This is a great video to watch, and what better person to hear the truth from than someone who was not just involved in the movement but part of the Hinn family? He saw everything first hand and he is very open and frank in this testimony.

I did a lot of reading. There are countless articles on this subject to help you understand and find the truth for yourself.

You Need to Wipe the Slate Clean

It might not be the same for everybody, but I needed to understand to move forward. Educating myself helped me to not fall into other traps. This is one thing I’ve seen happened repeatedly, where people leave sects, cults or the word of faith movement but then after a long while eventually return. Or they turn back to some of the doctrines that they learnt there. This is because it’s human nature to go back to what is familiar, to what we know. You have to lay a new foundation. That is why it’s so important to wipe the slate clean. You need to start over. Don’t see it as the end, but rather the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in your life.

In Conclusion

First I blamed God for not keeping His promises, and then I realised that it had nothing to do with Him. It was people who failed me, I had to forgive the people. Then I was angry with myself for being so gullible and falling for all of this, and I had to move past that too and be graceful and understanding toward myself. In all honesty, it was no small feat to get through this and be a better person for it. This has not been an easy journey. I had to put in a lot of effort and time to get to where I am today. But I am also proof of the fact that it can be done.

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English Sermons

English Sermons

Here is a link if you would like to listen to audio sermons by various preachers. Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.

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