Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. - Romans 16:17-18 (ESV)
Every now and again, these small but meaningful stories pile up. Not enough detail to warrant a full four-page Devotional, nor even a shorter "Verse of the Day." So, I gather them up with the same care and package them together because they still carry import and instruction. If Lou Engle visited Beni Johnson on her deathbed to admittedly not pray for her healing but to eerily ask for her to lay hands on him, I think we ought to at least be aware of the sheer creepiness of it all. If everyone's latest favorite singer/preacher/author/politician from Bethel saw a 31,000% increase in his ministry revenue, we should be aware of that. These are just two of the stories this past month, which we will get to, but we start by visiting an old friend.
We all remember Ted Haggard, don't we? Haggard was once the evangelical darling who ran his own 14,000 member church in Colorado. He was the head of the National Association of Evangelicals and used his pulpit to rail greatly against the homosexual community. At the height of his arrogance and hubris, a male prostitute named Mike Jones alleged years of "service" to Haggard, including using crystal meth during these homosexual trysts. Haggard denied this of course but then the tapes were revealed. Haggard then admitted to buying the meth but insisted he never used it. Even though his board investigated and threw him out, he always insisted that he never engaged in the homosexual sex but rather that Jones "masturbated him." Another young man came forward to accuse Haggard of masturbating in front of him, to which Haggard admitted. After paying him off to the tune of $200,000, his church finally removed him from the congregation. Despite all of this, Haggard would plow on ahead and open a new church, in Colorado, in 2010. He has served as pastor of that church ever since. Well, in case you were wondering if Haggard had really repented, it appears now he has faced more allegations at his new church. A pastor who was ordained at that church has resigned due to Haggard still making sexually suggestive advances towards young men in the church. According to Protestia, two teens have also come forward regarding how Haggard had inappropriately touched them, one saying:
"Sometimes when he touches me, it feels very predatorial and very strange. He'll touch me on my pecs or my back or hug me in a way that I'm sliding up his hip or the side of his thigh or his bum. You can kind of tell it's weird". There's a lot of highly suspicious things that he does, and you're like, 'that doesn't seem or feel normal.'"
This has resulted in the collapse of his church and now Haggard runs a house church at 40-60 people. As we have written before, when preachers disqualify themselves in falling from grace we ought to pray for their restoration to their walk with God - not their ministry. The Evangelical Industrial Machine will want them back in ministry quickly if they are good money producers but the reality of the bible is that there are qualifications to be a pastor and I am pretty sure doing crystal meth with homosexual escorts while maligning them from the pulpit is disqualifying. It is only further insanity that Colorado let him open a new church and further still that anyone is surprised that the same ending occurred.
For our next dose of Charismaniacal insanity we travel to ground zero - Bethel Church. I could have went with the recent revelation that after a two year absence due to COVID, Bethel has reopened their "healing rooms." Let that sink in for a second. We have something wackier though for this month involving false prophet Lou Engle. The long and the short of it is that Engle claims to have received a dream where he was asking Bill Johnson where he could catch fish along the Sacramento River. This led him to call Bill and ask if he could come by to "have communion" with he and Beni, who everyone knew was close to death from her battle with cancer. When he got there, he informed them he was not there to pray for healing for Beni but instead had a more macabre motivation. Engle claims he said to the dying woman:
"If you pass, I want you to lay your hands upon me, that I would carry your legacy. She's been doing communion every day for years. (unintelligible) the river of the sacrament. It's the river of the sacrament! It's the revival of the blood where the center will not be a pulpit! It will not be a missions move or evangelism. It will be all (unintelligible)"and the blood will break the accuser of the brethren! It will loose such a sound of revival and awakening as what I'm hearing today. She laid her hands upon me. I said "if you'll allow me Lord, I will take Beni Johnson's legacy, and I will carry the communion revival that I believe she's been leading for years."
While this fits quite nicely with Bill Johnson's mysticism, we would be negligent if not to point out the sheer lunacy of it all. As best I can gather here, Beni Johnson has been taking communion every day, for years. We do not know why, as this is clearly extra-biblical. It has an almost gnostic flavor to it, as does many of the teachings at Bethel. Engle, a master false prophet, believes this is somehow related to a revival of blood without a pulpit at the center. I can only assume this aligns with the consistent bible bashing that Bill Johnson made so famous. Who needs a pulpit when we have Lou Engle's warped visions and dreams to worship? So, Lou Engle visits Beni Johnson as she is dying and instead of praying for her healing, he asks the dying woman to lay her hands on him so he could take her legacy? All with her husband pastor Bill looking on favorably. While nonsense such as this lies just on the edge of insanity, remember that untold numbers of people follow it. This is the same church that went grave sucking to leech "residual anointing" from dead heretics. Just in case you thought maybe Bethel was getting better.
The third story today also comes from Bethel and is better classified in the huckster category. By now, most people know Sean Feucht. He was a popular worship leader at Bethel who went on a nationwide tour during COVID. Maybe you remember him from holding a concert during the George Floyd aftermath. He became a voice for the Republican Party during the riots of 2020. This would soon lead him to a failed run for Congress on a platform of criticizing the government for their efforts to keep people safe during the pandemic. His gatherings had all of the extreme Charismaniacal trappings including holy laughter and rolling around on the ground because, you know, Jesus?
While the flock were not looking however, Feucht was busy fleecing them. Just in case you thought he was just a genuine worshipper concerned about the state of our politics. His ministry, of which he is the only apparent paid employee blossomed during the bad COVID years when he was so active. In 2017 his ministry reeled in just over 274K, followed by 218K in 2018 and 283K in 2019. Not too shabby for a worship minister, which topped off a salary to him of 124K in 2019. Then COVID hit and Feucht found his niche touring the country to appear genuinely concerned about our country and the cause of Christ. The result was in 2020, his ministry saw revenues exceeding 5.3 million and while he maintained a respectable 119K salary, a deeper dive revealed how he funneled the ministry boon into his own coffers. In 2019, his honorariums and speaker fees were just over 281K but in 2020 it ballooned to $5,303,651! Feucht has since purchased a gated community home in southern California and over five acres in Montana, estimated at two million dollars. Hallelujah let's do another tour!
There were plenty of honorable mentions like Perry Noble (remember him?) holding a redneck church service and lunatic Greg Locke claiming he sweated angel wings during a sermon but there are only so many hours in the day. While the theme running through these stories was insanity, we need to remember these are the norm in modern day Charismania. A pastor was robbed at gunpoint during a live streamed service and relieved of a million dollars in gems between he and his wife and seemingly no one batted an eye! They were wearing a million dollars worth of gems to preach the gospel and when pressed on the excess he bristled and said he could buy whatever he wanted to! There's the real humble spirit of Christ in action. No more so then when someone increases their income 31,000% in one year by manipulating people's fears and emotions in the name of Christ! Or when a false prophet seeks a dying woman to lay her hands on him so he can steal her "legacy." Or the insanity of expecting different results like was saw in the story of Ted Haggard.
Noble, Locke, Haggard, Engle, Johnson, Feucht - mark them all beloved. Mark them and avoid them all as our key verses implore us to do.
Reverend Anthony Wade - August 1, 2022