My wife, Kathryn, and I were trapped in the Word-Faith deception for several years – and it was only by the truth of God’s Word that we escaped.
It was in the early to mid-1990s that we attended a Word-Faith church in the southern suburbs of Brisbane, Queensland, and from there we were introduced to Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) and attended the Kenneth Copeland Bible School (conducted by the Queensland branch of KCM), and several KCM conferences. For a short period we attended Rhema Gold Coast but eventually settled at another Word-Faith church (with links to KCM).
At the turn of the century/millennium my wife and I were asked to put together a Discipleship manual for the youth, which we did, and lead the lessons as well. Following the success of the Discipleship manual, we were then asked to put together a manual and course on Biblical Finances. Having been indoctrinated in Word-Faith thinking in regards to our understanding of this subject, we referenced the abundance of books we had on the subject, written by Word-Faith apologists Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Creflo Dollar, and others. We collated the “go to” Scripture proofs that Word-Faith quote to justify their teachings on all matters money – but deciding to be absolutely thorough – we went not to the specific verses (or parts thereof) but to the beginning of the chapter or incident in which they appeared.
Every verse – when looked at in context – did NOT mean what the Word-Faith proponents said it did. The Word of God did NOT support our long held Word-Faith “biblical finances” doctrine. Kathryn and I took our concerns to the pastor, and the meeting was typically amicable, the consequences, however, blindsided us. Overnight we were shunned by the youth we had just weeks before taught. Their quick-step change of direction whenever they saw us heading their way was less than subtle. Fortunately though, several people in the congregation – who Kathryn and I had regularly had a Bible study with – did not abandon us. What we did do though was study the Bible even more earnestly. There was a subsequent meeting with the pastor, with all members of our Bible study group, and despite every objection (i.e. proof-texting of Scripture) by the pastor – and subsequent correction and disproving of his point by the Word of God in context, the pastor refused to agree with anything we said. Needless to say, our days at that church were numbered.
At one of our subsequent Bible-study meetings, one member of our group mentioned a “critical” church and pastor that she had heard of which met next to the Word Intrigued, Kathryn and I attended.
Our first meeting at Christian Witness Ministries, and hearing Philip Powell’s expository preaching on Colossians chapter three was an eye-opener. Never had we heard the Word of God expounded in such a manner – it had always been an isolated verse here, part of a verse there. Now we were being taught the Word of God in context and expounded; and not being used as justification behind something the preacher “believed” God had told him. Gone were the theatrics, entertainment, and clichés of so- called modern preaching. God and His Word were central, were the emphasis, and were the priority.
We are incredibly grateful to God for His faithfulness, mercy and graciousness in directing us to the “critical” church that is Christian Witness Ministries, and God’s faithful servant Philip Powell.
During the last thirteen years – the time we have attended Christian Witness Ministries Fellowship – I (and no doubt many of you) have seen many fads, false teachings, false prophecies, and false preachers infiltrate the church and Christianity. Philip’s priority and concern was always God and His Word – and as such he did not shrink back from correcting doctrine and warning God’s people. But correcting and warning also meant the naming of the wolves masquerading as sheep, and the hirelings masquerading as shepherds.
The naming of false prophets and false teachers is, for some people, taboo. Amazingly, I have seen many a letter (sent to Philip and CWM) in which he is criticized for pointing out these frauds. It is mindboggling (and hypocritical) that Philip was criticized for criticizing wolves and hirelings. It is mindboggling that people defended deceivers and rebuke those pastors (true shepherds) who were and are warning and defending God’s flock.
Is Christian Witness Ministries perfect? No. Was Philip Powell perfect? No. But God and His Word were Philip’s focus. Criticism of teachers, preachers, prophets, doctrines, and denominations was never about them being imperfect, but rather because of on-going, perpetual, deception, false teachings and/or false prophecy. Everyone makes mistakes, Philip knew this, I know this, we all know this; Philip never hunted for mistakes, the warnings in CETF are never about tearing down because of mistakes. But when there is danger to God’s people, God’s people need to be warned, and Philip did just that.
There are ups and downs in life, and indeed there are ups and downs in ministry life as well. At times there have even been disagreements over (non-essential) points of Christian doctrine; and at times these disagreements have played out in the public arena (including online). During these times I have watched Philip stand his ground on what he believed to be true (based on the Word of God), and I have seen some friendships and associations tried due to these differences. Nevertheless, Philip always, always, remained a gentleman – even when correspondence and/ or discussions were passionate. Philip’s focus was the Word of God and any and all criticism during these discussions was based on doctrine and theology and never an overt personal attack.
Prior to writing my first article (at Philip’s urging), on Kenneth Copeland and Word-Faith teachings, I never considered writing an article – and felt out of my depth with Philip’s request. A manual or technical document, I could write; but an article, a piece of narrative? Hardly! Such an idea was daunting to say the least. I am amazed that I managed to write the first, let alone the many that have followed it. God is gracious.
Through Philip I have learnt much, both in regards to the Word of God, doctrine and theology, but also with writing and editing. Philip was certainly a mentor and an inspiration – and I thank God for bringing him into my life.
Philip Powell loved God and was a faithful servant. I miss our conversations, his insight, and wisdom. His was a life and ministry well worth emulating. No doubt, however, Philip would have us remember that which he preached in a conference several years back,
Living is Christ, dying is gain. Philippians 1:21 again, our text: For me to live is Christ, to do die is gain. Why? Why is it gain to die? If it’s so great to live, even in suffering, persecution, so that we can preach the Gospel, why is it gain to die? Because, brothers and sisters, to depart is to arrive. You know, when one person dies we say he’s gone; no, no, we should say, if he’s a Christian, he’s arrived. He’s got there!