Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I would have left the Word of Faith on the basis of that denomination's Gnosticism and the abuses of the Prosperity Gospel. But I would have parted peacefully. The abuses of human beings that I saw at the hands of leaders in the Word of Faith, particularly Kenneth Copeland, his daughter Terri Pearsons, and other leaders at Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM) and Eagle Mountain International Church (EMIC) are the reasons that I am blogging all this. Copeland needs to be exposed as a tyrant and a fraud!

Let me tell you what happened and you can judge for yourself.

My wife and I had been followers of Kenneth Copeland since 1990. We believed everything he said. While not members of Eagle Mountain International Church (the church affiliated with KCM and pastored by Copeland's son in law), we did go there. We always wanted to work for KCM, and in August of 2003, we both got our chance. We were so excited! This was the opportunity of a lifetiime -- to be able to help Brother Copeland put legs to his vision and help expand the Kingdom of God!

Yeah. We were in for a rude awakening! It was one thing to see KCM and EMIC from the outside. It was quite another to be insiders.

What we saw was nothing short of spiritual abuse and Shepherding. Remember, in a previous article, I mentioned two separate sources that prove that Kenneth Copeland married the Word of Faith with Shepherding. Keep that in mind as you read our experiences.

While I was at KCM, a nationally famous minister came in to encourage us at one of our staff “chapels.” He said “Don't ask questions. Just do what you're told. If you ask questions, then you aren't in faith.” If we were going to do our job, didn't we need to know what we were doing, and didn't that mean we had to ask questions? This was nothing less than Shepherding, a restatement of “Don't touch the anointed!”

A friend of mine who attended EMIC, began to become concerned about the direction the church was headed. It seemed all he heard were sermons on prosperity. So, he wrote the pastor a letter outlining his concerns. The next week, the pastor stood up and held up my friend's letter and said “I have received a letter from a member outlining some concerns with our church. These are legitimate concerns and questions and I want to answer them. So, next week, I will answer this letter, question by question.”

The following week, the senior pastor remained seated, in a very submissive manner. His wife, Terri Pearsons, the senior associate pastor and Copeland's daughter, stood up and took the microphone. In front of a congregation of 3,500 people, she said “Some of you have questioned what is taught in this church. If you don't like it, I suggest you go find another church that you can more easily manipulate, because it won't happen here.” My friend said that his blood ran cold because he knew the pastor's wife was talking about him. Then the pastor's wife led the congregation in an oath of allegiance to the pastor. I was there that day. I refused to take the oath, and I never returned after that Sunday. Oddly enough, KCM did not have a job requirement commanding employees to be members of EMIC, so we left and went elsewhere. An oath of allegiance? Total obedience to the pastor is a concept of Shepherding. I no longer ask myself why this woman said what she said. If Shepherding is a part of the official doctrine of KCM/EMIC, then she was just doing what she thought she was supposed to do.

That was not the only occasion, either. We later learned that the pastor's wife also publicly humiliated and eviscerated the head of the greeter department, simply because the head greeter refused to require all her ladies to wear dresses, and allowed a few to wear pants suits. In other words, the pastor's wife, a member of the Copeland family, enacted the Shepherding practice of telling someone how to dress.

I have a friend who worked at KCM at the same time I did. While she worked there, her mother “came out of the closet” and declared herself to be a lesbian. A coworker took my friend aside and said that her mother couldn't be her family anymore because she was going to Hell. Her coworkers were her family now. This cut my friend to her core! I don't know the motivations of the woman who said this to my friend, but the end result was spiritual abuse. This is a sign of Shepherding, a belief that they have the right to tell us who our friends and family ought to be.

During my tenure at that ministry, I experienced quite a bit of indirect Shepherding. I say indirect, because these were rules that were hinted at, not given to me directly in writing or as a verbal warning. The appearance of what was appropriate was more important to leadership than our spiritual walk with God. So I knew I had to wear a mask of correct behavior and not admit to liking things that were frowned upon by the Copeland family (in my case, comic books, science fiction stories, unbridled sex for pleasure with my wife, and the theological works of non-Charismatic ministers). If any of us employees did mention these “unspeakables” in public, it was not uncommon for us to be silenced and told that if management found out, we could be fired. It grew wearying after a while, and I felt dehumanized after working there for four months. I was told that it was a great honor to work at that ministry, yet I felt totally dishonored as a person.

Shortly before my wife left KCM, it imposed a gag order. In a rather stridently written memo, management said that employees were not to talk to anyone, including family members, because they never knew who they would be talking to. That person could be a news reporter. I should think that an employee would know if his or her spouse or child is a reporter! This memo did nothing to help build marriages and strong families. Instead, if taken literally, it would build suspicion, distrust and paranoia within the families of employees. I'm sorry, but to me, this is Shepherding; management by fear and coercion, putting loyalty to the church above loyalty to family.

Parties are meant to be fun, to be celebrations of accomplishment, a holiday season, or just for the heck of it. But it is difficult to celebrate when your invitation to the party pretty much says “you are required to attend, required to have fun, and if you don't, you will be fired.” While not putting it in exactly those terms, we knew that when the ministry invited its employees to a party, that if we valued our jobs, we should go. This is not just a rhetorical reading of the memo, either. Another friend of mine who worked at that ministry, decided to not attend the Christmas party one year. They were serving barbeque beef, something he doesn't care for, so he went off site for a sandwich. When he returned, he was hauled into his supervisor's office, given a written reprimand, and told me that the only reason he wasn't fired was that he was too good at his job. His supervisor told him that when the ministry invites you to a party, it is a high honor and privilege so he better go!

Invitations to special conventions and teaching engagements were treated the same way. Like it or not, we knew we had to go, or lose our jobs.

That kind of action did nothing to enhance our spirituality or walk with God. If anything, that kind of action tore it down.

I was a licensed Word of Faith minister for several years, and during that time I had a friend who was a pastor at EMIC. At one time, we were very close. But when I became a minister, things changed. He began to take it upon himself to mentor me, without my permission. At the time, I had a ministry to Goths, and he would tell me to teach prosperity to the Goths, tell them to stop wearing black, tell them to stop reading poetry, and go get jobs in the corporate world. I was trying to reconcile Goths to Jesus; if I had done what he said, I would have alienated them further. When I didn't do what he said, he called me rebellious. Uh ... I was licensed by a totally different church, so he was not part of my ecclesiastical chain of command, so how could I be rebelling? When I found out that KCM/EMIC was merged with Shepherding, I saw his actions for what they were – part of the theological platform that made up his job.

I left KCM as part of a massive layoff in 2004. My wife was fired in late 2007 ... for posting a photo of her Halloween costume online. Before you go and scream at us for celebrating Halloween, I have to point out that she and I are old theatre people and take any opportunity to put on costumes. To us, it's a reason to “dress up.” If we could do it in April and July, we would. We weren't engaging in any sorcery or fright fests. Yet, a Halloween costume photo, on my wife's personal blog, was a reason for this ministry to fire her. They were actually looking for a reason to fire her; her opposition to the Prosperity Gospel was becoming well known. My wife did something that was against the written and spoken doctrines of the church. Shepherding allows no independent thought or feelings by congregation members.

As soon as my wife was fired, I began to be stalked on my Xanga blog by employees of KCM. As many as 50 anonymous "footprints" (ISP addresses) would appear on my blog daily. Through Xanga's footprint tracking system, I could easily tell that they originiated inside KCM. This lasted from mid-October, 2007 until early 2008. I guess they grew weary of me after I made my blog private. Stalking of ex-members is a Shepherding technique. I was perceived as a threat and had to be monitored.

Six friends left me. Two were very close, and I considered them to be two of my best friends. These friends left me, not just because of a theological dispute, but because they chose loyalty to the doctrines of men and to EMIC over loyalty to a human being. This was shunning in action.

The day after my wife was fired, several of our friends who worked at KCM at the time were hauled into their superiors' offices and grilled about their connection with my wife and me. They were told that KCM had checked out their background thoroughly ... one can only ponder what THAT meant! Most were given a "clean bill of health." Two of these friends had restrictions placed on them by the pastors of EMIC, preventing them from having any future contact with us. I did not hear what the consequences would be if they ever ran into us in Wal-Mart. Shepherdists dare to tread only where our mothers did ... in believing that they have the right to tell people who their friends will be. Some people are gullible enough to believe they have to obey.

Since our departure from KCM and the Word of Faith, we have found out more about Kenneth Copeland and his true nature. The way he is behaving is so much like a Shepherding preacher, or a cult leader, that I can't tell the difference.

First, Senator Grassley launched an investigation into six televangelists. I've read the questions Grassley sent them. The questions to Copeland are the most extensive and the most damning. To read them yourself, click here. Why did Copeland use a church owned airplane to fly to Colorado on a vacation? Why is there a for-profit cattle company operating on ministry land? What happened to the funds donated for investment in the Revival Capital of the World theme park, which shows no signs of being built? These are legitimate questions, and Grassley would not be investigating if there were not some evidence of wrong doing by Copeland. Did Copeland answer Grassley? No. He refused. What he sent as an answer to the Senator was a mere pie chart, their IRS statement, and the address to the IRS. In other words, KCM gives the appareance of having much to hide. If they had nothing to hide, then why not tell all to the Senator? Maybe that's why KCM erected a wrought iron fence, complete with lockable gates, around the ministry property ... to keep IRS and ATF agents out. They place does look more and more like the Branch Davidian compound.

Following an impromptu interview by a local reporter, Copeland attended what was supposed to be the dedication ceremony for KCM's new Partner Services Building. Instead of reading the Bible or praying, Copeland spent half an hour blasting the reporter and calling him names. Gloria Copeland had to publicly remind him that he was there to pray for the building.

Two friends of mine, who are also ex-KCM employees, and now ex Word of Faith, agreed to be interviewed for a news broadcast in which they pretty much called Copeland a liar. The day after the local news broadcast (to read the transcript, click here; to see the actual broadcast, click here), which was also two days after Senator Grassley launched his investigation into KCM, Copeland convened a "chapel," which is more of a business propaganda meeting than any spiritual event. During the "chapel," Terri Pearsons called Grassley, the local news reporter, and my two friends, Nazis and possessed of the anti-christ. Her rant was published on the KCM website, and everyone that I know who saw it all said the same thing; "She's demon possessed!" The hatred and terror at someone catching her father's hand in the cookie jar was palpable.To see her rant for yourself, click here.

In late November, Copeland had presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on the Believer's Voice of Victory broadcast, giving a politician a week's worth of free publicity. This is from a man who demands that Senator Grassley respect the separation of church and state, but is unwilling to recognize that same separation where an Evangelical candidate is concerned. That was just blatant hypocrisy. To see them for yourself, click here. You won't have to scroll down very far. The dates are November 26 - 30, 2007.

It gets better!

Copeland revealed his true colors at his Ministers Conference, held January 22 through 24, 2008, at EMIC. He didn't appear as a Shepherdist, but he did use the U.S. Constitution as toilet paper.

First, he turned the conference into a fund raiser for Huckabee. It was supposed to be a conference for ministers and by ministers. Instead, he turned it into a political platform, raising $111,000 in cash for Huckabee, and a million dollars in pledges. Oh, sure, the KCM spin doctors are saying Copeland did everything right. They say that Copeland never endorsed Huckabee, and that he dismissed the conference (early), and said that if anyone wanted to come back, they could. So, it was a private meeting. They also say that Copeland rented a room at EMIC to Huckabee, and that the fundraising happened there. The KCM spin masters say that EMIC has a tradition of renting rooms to ministers at the conference. Well ... my wife was responsible for the Ministers Conference from 2004 through 2007, and began to set up for 2008. She told me that at no time did Copeland, KCM or EMIC rent rooms to anyone, especially during the Ministers Conference. The conference is tightly controlled, and KCM does not want a lesser known party trying to sell books behind the scenes. So, the publicly stated habit of renting rooms is a bold faced lie! This is total political pandering, using a religious meeting to garner money for a political candidate, and a violation of the U.S. Constitution. If this fund raising had happened in a hotel room after the conference, there would be no problem. But it happened inside a church, during the dates set for a ministers' conference. That is a total violation of the separation of church and state. To read one news article on this, click here.

As if that wasn't enough, during the Ministers' Conference, Copeland declared war on the U.S. Senate. First, he said that his reply to Senator Grassley was "a six page lesson in 'no!'," meaning Copeland didn't reply to Grassley's request for information. Copeland said that the ministry's finances belonged to God and that Grassley had no business looking at them. Furthermore, Copeland said that he could tell Grassley the truth, but wouldn't, because Grassley didn't know the truth. Finally, Copeland dared Grassley to subpoena him, throw him in jail, or execute him. That is sheer arrogance, and total hypocrisy from a man who for decades has preached patriotism and obedience to Romans 13:1-7. The website,, has posted clips from Copeland's rant. To see them for yourself, click here.

Now, CBS Evening News thinks Copeland has gone too far and has accused him of fraud, finding two more ex-employees who spoke out about their former boss. To see CBS' video, click here.

So ... Kenneth Copeland. Preacher of the Gospel, or Shepherdist madman? You decide.

Some of you may not like what I said about Copeland. You know what? I don't care! What I wrote is the truth. I suffered much abuse from the hands of this man, and I owe it to Jesus to expose the apostasy in KCM. I do not want revenge, but like any rape victim, I do want to see justice and see the rapist go to prison. So does God.

You have to decide what the truth is for yourself. If you can continue to follow Kenneth Copeland with a clear conscience, then please do so. But I cannot. My conscience demands that I stand up, say something, and oppose what I see as a Gnostic-Shepherding preacher who is leading many sheep into destruction.

-- Tom Killingsworth


There is a world of difference between shepherding and Shepherding. The first, shepherding with a small "s" is merely the concept of a loving teacher or pastor or even congregation member helping a new Christian to understand the faith. It's what we're all supposed to do.

The second, Shepherding with a capital "S" is a formal set of beliefs and teachings that are hurting a lot of Christians and driving them from the church with running, open wounds on their hearts. It's this second one, Shepherding, that I want to address, because it's spiritual abuse at its worst.

Shepherding began around 1974 as a good idea.

The original concept of Shepherding was created by five south Florida pastors – Bob Mumford, Derek Prince, Charles Simpson, Ern Baxter and Don Basham – as a way to deal with what they saw as dissolution in the Charismatic movement. It stated that the pastor of a church provided an umbrella of protection for the congregation, shielding them from the evil outside. To enjoy this protection, the congregation had to submit to the pastor's authority. The idea was to develop strong disciples for Christ.

That sounds Biblical enough. But the movement went bad about as quickly as kudzu overrunning a barn in Tennessee; virtually overnight. It seems the faster it grew in popularity, the worse it became. Eventually, Shepherding gave the pastor total and ultimate authority over all his congregation, including what they ate, what they wore, where they worked, who they married, and how many children a couple could have. The pastor also had the authority to tell congregation members where to go to school, what to study, what to read, what movies to watch, who their friends would be, and how to worship God. People who didn't like what the pastor, the elders, or the cell group leaders told them to do were called rebellious and subject to extreme discipline. Shepherding quickly devolved from an idea to help disciple a congregation into sheer tyranny. All of this was done in the name of accountability and discipleship.

Mumford apologized and publicly repented for the movement in 1990, and it kinda died out, maintaining a loose life through smaller, more obscure churches and ministries.

But about the year 2000, it resurfaced again, in the guise of the Mentoring/ Accountability/ Discipleship programs.

Same fleas, different dog. Call it what you will, Discipleship, Mentoring, Accountability, Discipline, Covering; it is still Shepherding.

It's funny, but if the program has a small letter in its name (i.e., accountability), it seems to be pretty good. If it hosts a capital letter (i.e., Accountability), it's another form of Shepherding. Just a thought; something to look out for.

Shepherding is based on pride, manipulation and arrogance. I've lost track of the number of Charismatic Christians I've heard recently say things like "I mentor twelve people!" or "I have twenty submitted to me." Sounds like a multi-level marketing downline, not a church! Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is no longer limited to just the Charismatic churches (Word of Faith, Pentecostal, Assembly of God Church of God, non-denominational). It is now infecting the Evangelicals as well (Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Presbyterian, Disciples of Christ, Nazarene).The Sacramentals (Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Orthodox) seem to be avoiding it ... so far.

The concept of discipleship, accountability and mentoring are noble in themselves. What Christian doesn't want to be a good disciple of Christ? In the old days, being a good disciple was learned in Sunday School, through time spent in prayer, by studying the Bible, and living the Sermon on the Mount with one's neighbors.

Accountability is also a good concept, especially for those of us who are flawed and have habitual sins in our lives. But it should be lateral, as in friendship. A good friend will not let another friend remain mired in alcoholism or pornography.

And mentoring is just an outgrowth of the teacher-student relationship, as in the violin teacher who sees a gift in his pupil, and gives her more time than just her thirty minutes a week. He encourages her to try new songs, enter competitions and stretch herself on her fiddle.

It is when these noble concepts cross a line and become Shepherding that the problems arise. A sure sign that they have crossed the line is when phrases are flung like snowballs ... phrases such as “You need someone in your chain of command,” and “You need to be accountable to someone,” and “You need to be submitted to someone,” and “You need a covering.” This is when good ideas go bad.

The current trend in Discipleship began as a good idea; a way to raise up mature Christians who could raise up more mature Christians. But it has an innate problem. It is based on the idea that Paul was Timothy's spiritual father. He may have been, but where else in the Bible do we find that we are supposed to have any other spiritual father other than God Himself? The concept of having to have a spiritual father who is human, and be a spiritual child to another human being is not Biblical. If it happens, it happens, but it should be an organic thing, not organized like a bridge club in a small Georgia town.

Accountability began as a way to keep the pastor from running off with the church secretary and the funds (which is in itself negative, because that's assuming the pastor is going to fail and sin) and quickly became a way of controlling people for our own purposes, which are usually selfish. According to the Mentoring / Discipleship doctrine, Christians must be discipled by one Master in an authoritarian relationship to be a true disciple of Christ. This is supposedly set up after the system that Jesus had over the twelve apostles. This subordinate relationship with another Christian is necessary to bear "fruit," which is specifically defined as the replication of more disciples. So, the Discipleship / Mentoring concept establishes a hierarchical chain of members by placing men in the position of Master and Disciple. In business, they used to call this a Pyramid Scheme. In the pre-Civil War South, it was called slavery.

It's interesting that the ones who bark the loudest and say "You must have accountability, you must have a mentor, you must have a chain of command" are also thinking "And I'm the one to do it." If someone says to you that "You must have a chain of command," tell them something like "Okay, I'll submit to my Dad and let him mentor me" and see how angry that other person suddenly becomes!

Someone who is actually called to mentor others, by God Himself, is quiet about it. They don't go looking for someone to correct. People come to them and ask advice. The ancient Chinese proverb comes to mind here – “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” The onus is on the student, not the teacher. In true mentoring, it is the student who is the focus and the source of initiating mentorship, not the teacher.

Then there is the Covering movement. We Charismatics (and I suspect now that quite a few Evangelicals, too) have been taught that all Christians must have a spiritual covering. That's a polite way of saying that we have to have a boss telling us what to do. So many Christians run around like chickens with their heads cut off, in a total panic, begging “Who is my covering?” Paul is pretty plain about the covering issue, in the only passage in the New Testament where a “covering” is mentioned (at least in the translation that I read). He writes in 1 Corinthians 11:3, “But there is one thing I want you to know: A man is responsible to Christ.” Period. Jesus is my covering. Jesus is your covering. Why do we need people to cover us when we have Jesus? What human being can dare say that they can do a better job of protecting and leading and teaching and guiding us than Jesus Christ? What arrogance can make such a boast?

We Christians do not need to put up with Shepherding, Mentoring, Discipleship or Covering. Sure we need shepherds, but shepherds are protectors, not dictators. Sure we need mentors, but mentors are teachers, not tyrants. Sure we need to be discipled, but disciplers are friends, not overlords. Sure we need a covering, but His name is Jesus, not Bob or Percy or Janice or Felonia.

Shepherding pastors and ministers posture and position themselves. They surround themselves with yes men and women to protect themselves. They blast and shoot down any challenge and defend themselves using three scriptures, because, as the Bible says, let every word be established by three witnesses. Some even go so far as to have their “armor bearers” carry guns and rough up any detractor in town.

They develop an aloof attitude and say something that a lot of us have heard ... “Don't touch the anointed!”

Jesus never said “don't touch me.” He said “who touched me?” Paul never said “don't question me.” He said “I will answer your question.” Peter didn't say “don't touch God's anointed.” He listened when Paul challenged him in public. Moses was called the meekest man on Earth. Meek people are touchable. David led his men and lived with them in a cave when we was being hunted by Saul. Our Biblical examples were all touchable. They were all leaders. They were eager to answer questions. They were people who lived with people. They were shepherds who smelled like sheep.

Shepherding is no longer confined to the Charismatic churches. Evangelical churches, mostly Baptist and Methodist, are now following this trend. A recent Wall Street Journal article cites several cases of the growing phenomenon of “disciplining” congregation members.

The pastors who do this say that they are simply doing what the New Testament says to do, in order to correct sin.

For instance, a Baptist church in Michigan had an elderly congregation member arrested and removed during a church service. Her crime? Questioning the pastor's authority and insisting that he follow the church charter and have a deacon board.

A 4,000 member church in Dallas, Texas, requires that all members sign an oath stating that they will submit to the correction and guidance of church elders.

A 6,000 member church in Nashville expelled 74 members for gossip. And a Baptist church in Virginia voted out a member for talking about the pastor's plans to build a bigger house.

The Wall Street Journal article estimates that between 16,000 and 20,000 American churches are now practicing some form of “discipline.”

That tells me that Shepherding is a virus and it is now out of control. It is quite permissible for a pastor to have a disruptive person removed from a service. And it is quite permissible for a pastor to ask someone who is blatantly sinning to leave the church. But this goes beyond that. This is public humiliation. Being shunned and publicly humiliated won't lead to repentance, but will probably drive the person deeper into anger. I'm not saying that the people who were so harshly dealt with were sinning, but let's assume for the sake of argument that they were. Shunning is not mentioned in the Bible as an effective way to deal with sin. The Bible clearly states that the Holy Spirit and God's goodness lead to repentance.

Yep. Shepherding is gaining a foothold in the Evangelical churches. How it got there is beyond me! But it needs to leave.

Monday, February 18, 2008


There is a difference between a truly Christlike church and a Shepherding church. If you are still confused about what makes a Shepherding church, let's go over the signs. If you see these in your church or the ministry that you are associated with, then you are involved in a Shepherding church and you should run for your very life! These signs are similar to the signs of a spiritually abusive church. They will be similar – all Shepherding churches are spiritually abusive, but not all spiritually abusive churches are Shepherding churches.

A few of these signs will surface in just about any church, so if you recognize one or two, don't worry. The best ministers are still human, and even Peter and Paul made mistakes and hurt people. But if you recognize a majority, then it's time to re-evaluate where that church stands in your life.

Signs of a Shepherding Church

1. It is common for there to be no accountability of leadership to the church body or to an ecclesiastical authority in some form of denominational body. This does not mean that all non-denominational, independent churches are Shepherding churches. It just seems that most Charismatic churches that are Shepherding churches are not accountable to any organization. And, as we will see later in this book, some major denominations are now practicing Shepherding techniques.

2. The congregation, however, is totally accountable to the leadership of the church.

3. Extreme emphasis is placed on the authority of the pastors and the elders. Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Bible take a back seat to the authority of the leadership of the church.

4. Elders, deacons, associate pastors, cell group leaders, etc., are picked by the senior pastor, not by the congregation.

5. Emphasis on the full five-fold ministry, with an undue amount of attention given to the apostle and the prophet.

6. Leaders are untouchable. They remain aloof from the congregation. Attempts to get to know them or to question them are met with “Don't touch God's anointed!”

7. The prophetic gifts are used to manipulate the congregation. Doom will be prophesied over someone who does not fully submit to the authority of leadership.

8. Loyalty to the pastor and the church is stressed, at the expense of loyalty to the congregation member's family and to God.

9. Oaths and vows are enforced on the congregation. Some of these include oaths of loyalty to the pastor, a promise to submit to the direction of church leaders, and vows of chastity by single people.

10. Congregation members are told that the primary way to receive God's blessings and to be protected from the power of Satan is to submit to the authority of the pastor and other leaders.

11. There is great emphasis on proper behavior and “sin management.” The verse “avoid the appearance of evil” will be used repeatedly.

12. Cell groups are “accountability groups,”instead of Bible study or prayer groups. Cell groups are a great idea, but when they are used to control the congregation's behavior, instead of studying the Bible on a more intimate level, there is something wrong.

13. Undue emphasis is placed on the public image of the church and ministry.

14. Undue emphasis is placed on what is appropriate behavior by the congregation.

15. Leadership seems to spend more time telling the congregation what to do than in teaching the congregation how to be a witness for Jesus to a dying world.

16. Directions for proper behavior seem to be rather prying and intimate. The congregation is told that they must do these things to receive God's blessings, live a Christlike life and be good disciples of Jesus. These directions are not offered as suggestions, but as commands. These direction include, but are not limited to, being told what to wear, what to read, what movies or television shows to watch, what to eat and drink, who to date, who to marry, how to have sex with one's spouse, how many children to have, how to raise one's children, who one's friend will be, where one should live, what job one should have, how many hours per day to pray and read the Bible, and how much money to give to the church.

17. Teachings are guilt and works based, instead of grace and salvation based.

18. Church members do not have the right to vote on church decisions. Decisions are made by church leaders on behalf of the congregation. In many cases, church members have no idea how the church money is spent, even though it came out of their pockets. This will be called the New Testament model of the church.

19. Small children in Sunday school or nurseries are subjected to corporal punishment to “drive the rebellion from them,” and are told that they need to repent for something as trivial as pulling the toys out of the toybox without permission. This happens at ages as young as two years old, an age that most theologians recognize as being too young to understand the concepts of rebellion and repentance.

20. Rejection or questioning of the authority, doctrines or teachings of the church is dealt with through “discipline,” which may include public humiliation of the congregation member or being kicked out of the church. At the least, the congregation member who does the questioning is called rebellious, and quite possibly accused of witchcraft.

21. Leadership encourages (sometimes demands) that congregation members become their “armor bearers,” basing this concept on one little guy who appears once in the Bible – Jonathan's armor bearer in 1 Samuel 14. While Jonathan's armor bearer as also his friend and advisor, Shepherding church armor bearers are assigned menial tasks such as cleaning the pastors' toilets and carrying their jackets and Bibles. They are sometimes totally ignored by leadership, not being spoken to for years.

22. Members who leave the church without the formal consent and blessing of leadership are shunned, or publicly slandered.

23. Former church members display a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They report not wanting to go to church ever again, have difficulty reading their Bibles, and say that any thought of doing either causes them to be nauseated. They may also have stories of having been stalked or threatened by church leaders after they left.

These are terrible things! They are more in keeping with a cult than any Christlike church. I feel such shame and horror at having to list them as signs of any church, yet they exist and are growing and consuming people like the Blob in a trailer park.


I used to wonder why Shepherding reappeared in the Charismatic churches considering that the founders pretty much shut it down around 1990, and publicly repented. It didn't make sense why it not only lingered, but began thriving again. I have lately found out why it reappeared. It snuck in through the teachings of the Word of Faith, one of the most influential movements since the Azusa Street Revival of 1906. The Word of Faith may be influential, but it is also an apostasy, and carries Shepherding clinging to it like a leech.

I was a follower of the Word of Faith doctrine from 1990 until 2005. Even when I began to break with the Word of Faith over the extremes of the Prosperity Gospel, I still maintained connections with them. I was a licensed minister through a Word of Faith church from 2004 through 2007, and my wife worked for Kenneth Copeland Ministries from 2003 until late 2007. During that time, I noticed more and more spiritual abuse, things that reminded me of Shepherding. I began to wonder, “Is the Word of Faith in general, and Kenneth Copeland Ministries in particular, Shepherdist, or merely spiritually abusive, or am I nuts?”

Early this year (2008), I found out that I am not nuts!

In his book A Different Gospel, D.R. McConnell points out the origins of the Word of Faith. This is not a rant by a Fundamentalist preacher. This book began as McConnell's master's thesis when he was a student at Oral Roberts University. He is a Charismatic pastor, so this is an insider's look at something he finds disturbing.

McConnell says that today's Word of Faith preachers (Kenneth Copeland, John Avanzini, Creflo Dollar, etc.) base their doctrine on the works and teachings of Kenneth Hagin. We knew that.

McConnell then says that Hagin based (some say plagiarized) his doctrines on the works of E.W. Kenyon. We knew that, too.

But then McConnell drops a 2,000 megaton bombshell, ripping through my views of the Word of Faith like a lawnmower through Bermuda grass. He states that Kenyon based his teachings and beliefs on what he was taught in college, at the hands of teachers who were Gnostic and Christian Scientist.

Whoa! That makes the whole doctrine pretty much suspect from the beginning!

Kenyon attended the Emerson School of Oratory in 1892. There, he was under the influence of Charles Emerson, a Christian Scientist; R.W. Trine, a Gnostic who wrote one of the major books on New Thought; and M.J. Savage, a Unitarian whose church Kenyon attended.

Let's look at those beliefs and see how the Word of Faith dovetails into them.

Gnosticism is a complex system of beliefs hammered together from earlier ones. It has existed as far back as before the time of Christ and was a real problem to the Church as early as the time of John and Peter. To summarize Gnosticism, it believes that salvation is through knowledge of mysteries (gained through intuition), that all matter is evil and that only spirit is good (a belief called Dualism), that Jesus could not have been purely good because He was in a human body, that Jesus was a mere man, that God created lesser gods, and that only Gnostics, “people who knew,” were guaranteed salvation. They also believe that God could only be reached through gnosis, through the divine revelation of mysterious knowledge. Gnostics also believe that God is a hermaphrodite; half male, half female. Gnostics believed in a divine formula, that once understood, would destroy the power of evil.

Gnosticism's more modern offshoot, New Thought, states that Spirit is the ultimate reality, the true human self is divine, divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good, most disease is mental in origin, and that right thinking has a healing effect. While that may sound Biblical, it is actually a form of early Humanism, and was founded on pantheism, occultism, spiritualism, and the basics of Gnosticism.

Christian Science is founded on the teachings of Mary Baker Eddy. This system believes a lot of things that are Biblical, but some of the things that they believe that aren't include “mind over matter,” the idea that all things are spiritual and the material world is an illusion, and the denial of physical ailments. Please note that Christian Science is not Scientology.

Hmmm ... I see parallels already. Let's review some of them.

The Word of Faith believes:

-- Divine Revelation: well, I believe in it, too, but all divine revelation has to mesh perfectly with the Bible. Word of Faith preachers teach that they are the dispensers of this revelation, and imply that only they are capable of giving it. They will rely more on what "God told them" than on what was written in the Bible, despite their insistence that we, the congregation, must find three scripture verses to support what we want to do. This is not unlike the Gnostic belief in mysterious knowledge.

-- They put God in a box: Word of Faith preachers deny God's sovereignty and actually mock the concept. They make God a slave to "spiritual laws" that even He can't break. They teach that we can twist God's arm to get what we want, enabling us to write our own ticket with Him (Kenneth Hagin's term), or turn God into a vending machine (Richard Roberts' term). The concept of spiritual laws and the idea that God is at our beck and call is definitely Gnostic.

-- Jesus died spiritually: while the idea that Jesus went to Hell is as old as the Church, the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds do NOT say that Jesus died spiritually and had to be born again. If Jesus did die spiritually, then Jesus was a mere man, and not God incarnate. Again, this is a Gnostic belief -- that Jesus was a mere man.

-- Spiritual laws: Word of Faith is founded on the concept that there are spiritual laws in the Bible, that even God is bound to obey. These spiritual laws include things like reciprocity, sowing and reaping, the law of sin and death, the law of the tongue, etc. Once these laws are understood and worked with, then Satan has no more power over the Christian. That may be true, and I'm not saying that it is, but it sounds an awful lot like the Gnostic belief in divine formulas.

-- God is as much female as He is male: I don't know where they get this from Biblically, but more than one Word of Faith has said this. They also teach that Adam was both male and female at the same time, and God removed Adam's female half, not just a rib. If this were true, then the pronoun for God in the Bible would be either "it" or "s/he," not "he." A hermaphroditic view of God is pure Gnosticism.

-- Man is equal with Jesus and God: the idea that we are made in God's image is Biblical, but the Word of Faith teaching that we are little gods, or that we are made in God's class is not. Being equal with God is Gnostic at best, Lucifer's rant at worst.

-- Our words can change time, space and matter: this is known as "Name It and Claim It." Sure, our words can change attitudes and maybe our bodies, but not to the extent that we are the "prophets of our own lives." This is Christian Scientist "mind over matter," retooled for modern times.

-- Emphasis on Dominion over the Earth instead of forgiveness of sins and the need to love others: Most Word of Faith theology is rooted in having dominion over the Earth, and that Adam was the god of this planet. Do I have to go into that? Gnostics believed that they were gods.

-- The reality of sickness and sin is denied: The Word of Faith says that they do not deny sickness and sin, but deny sickness and sin's place in their bodies. It's the same thing. Christian Science denies sickness, often to the point of dying instead of taking medicine. Word of Faith preachers do the same thing, often mocking doctors and medicine, despite having them on their daily television shows.

-- Prayer is replaced by confession: Prayer connects us with God. Confession connects us with us. In other words, confession, whether it is what we desire or a Bible verse, is a Gnostic practice of mumbling chants and spells, replacing God with our own minds, because we have the knowledge it takes to save ourselves.

-- God can only be pleased by faith: This is based on a verse in Hebrews. The implication is that if we are not standing on three scriptures from the Bible, believing we receive, and holding God to the spiritual laws, then God is not pleased with us. This is very similar to the Gnostic concept that the only way to God is through gnosis (in this case, the only way to God is through the strict definition of faith that the preacher uses). This totally rules out the concept that the way to God is through Jesus Christ.

-- Dualism: The Word of Faith stresses that everything is spiritual, and that the physical is not important. They mock education and creatitivy and the five human senses. They hate sex (Kenneth Copeland said that we were supposed to speak our children into existence, Gloria Copeland said that sex was a product of the fall of Adam, and Benny Hinn said that women were originally supposed to give birth from their armpits). Despite their obsession with healing, they hate the human body, calling it an "earth suit." Dualism is a Gnostic belief. Sure, you find the same teaching in the works of St. Augustine, but remember, he was a Gnostic before becoming a Christian.

I should have seen all this from the beginning, but I didn't. I fell for the teaching that I could get rich quick and that I didn't have to be sick a day in my life. There is a sucker born every minute! The reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of other Christians, is that there is a lot of Biblical truth in it. Much of what Word of Faith preachers teach is sound. But what they teach that is sound is nothing more than the truths found in the Pentecostal movement of 1906 and the Charismatic Renewal of 1967. It's the rest that's poisoned; the part that orginated with Kenyon, was modified by Hagin and has been perpetuated by Copeland.

Another reason the Word of Faith fooled me, and millions of others, is that the preachers are genuinely sincere Christians who love Jesus! Kenyon, Hagin, Copeland, Dollar and others have helped millions of people know Christ better. They really believe that what they preach is totally Biblical. Unfortunately, it isn't. Kenyon fought against the metaphysical religions of Christian Science and New Thought, denying their more obvious unbiblical teachings. Yet, he ended up embracing enough of these unbiblical teachings to turn the Word of Faith from what should have been a new branch of the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement into a genuine cult.

I know, I know ... there are Word of Faith apologetics that refute every one of these observations. The thing for me is this -- I was an insider and saw this firsthand. I saw the abuses, and the apostasies, and people running around chanting their mantras, and I had enough. McConnell's claims make sense to me. They explain what I saw. You have to decide for yourself.

This does not make the Word of Faith a heresy. Heresy is a rebellion against the doctrines of an established church. The Word of Faith is its own denomination, so it has nothing to rebel against. It is instead, an apostasy! An apostasy is nothing less than a rebellion against God Himself.

It gets worse.

There is a direct link between the Word of Faith and Shepherding.

Tricia Tillin, in her online testimony, shows this direct link. She lives in Great Britain, and was involved with KCM and the Word of Faith during the latter part of the 20th Century. In her blog, she writes that in 1985, she visited the UK headquarters for KCM and had a conversation with the worker there. During this conversation, Mrs. Tillin brought up how she was relieved that Kenneth Copeland was so opposed to Shepherding. Mrs. Tillin expected the worker to agree with her. Instead, Mrs. Tillin writes “She was evasive, would not condemn Shepherding doctrines, and then said that there had been a change of heart and the Copeland ministry would now be working more closely with the Shepherding leadership, and we should be praying for unity between them. This was devastating! Formerly they agreed Shepherding was in error, but now they'd changed their minds, and were going to work alongside each other!”

Then there is Stephen Parson's book Ungodly Fear. Parson writes that in 1985 (the same year that Mrs. Tillin visited the KCM headquarters in Great Britain), at a convention of the Network of Christian Ministries, Kenneth Copeland said the Word of Faith and the Shepherding doctrines ought to be merged.

So, two different sources identify that the Word of Faith and Shepherding married each other. This does, at least to me, explains what I saw during my tenure with KCM and the Word of Faith. If the Word of Faith was so far from the truth to begin with, then it's easy to understand how it could so easily embrace another apostasy like Shepherding.

And it also explains how Shepherding has made so many inroads into the Charismatic churches and ministries. Kenneth Copeland is a highly respected and influential teacher among many Charismatics. They are simply doing what they see his ministry and church do.