Azusa Then

Barb Wire

“Can’t see the forest for the trees”
(John Heywood, 1546)

Every few years, or so we are told, God apparently decides to show Himself in the theatrics of a number of theologically flawed individuals. Recently, I along with a few friends received a personal invite to California to “experience” God move in a powerful way, by a well-meaning acquaintance from the past. At that point 115,000 other folks had already registered. Yes 115,000.

Venues like such are usually held in stadiums or gigantic conference centers. Without a doubt they are big, big business for the communities that are invaded by those seeking the supernatural.

The promoters term such events as “revivals”. And just what is a “revival” you say? Well, Webster’s classifies it as such:

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  • a period in which something becomes popular again after a long period of time
  • the growth of something or an increase in the activity of something after a long period of no growth or activity
  • the showing of a play, a movie, etc., to the public usually many years after it was last shown : a new production of an old show

Let me be clear: these revivals in no way reflect the classic definition of a revival.

Azusa Now, The Call, California: The Speakers

Morbid curiosity got the better of me.

When I perused the list of speakers at this event, Azusa Now, my stomach tumbled like a cement mixer full of Tupperware. On the list were some “prophets” from my old hometown in Canada. One in particular was known around town as being a “pompous snake charmer”. I had personally watched him treat waitresses like dogs and flex authoritarian muscles over the sheep. In my opinion, he is not a nice man.

His wife is repelling in different way. A so-called prophetess (I’d be more inclined to call her a prophit-ess) who coiled and twitched and “clacked” during her prophecies like a pygmy bushman. Almost going full exorcist (minus the 360 degree head spin) she blurted out staccato words of the divine at another previous big revival in Lakeland Florida.

She gave me chills.

And yes, apparently she made it to California to creep out all non-believers watching for pure shock value, via

And speaking of Lakeland Florida, ex-convicted child molester, adulterer and ‘occultic’ tattoo canvas Todd Bentley resurfaced in the California Azusa Then pow-wow.

Bentley is infamous for all sorts of quackery including kicking old men in the stomach to heal them, receiving wisdom from what he terms as “angels”, leaving his wife for his intern and being plastered while on stage.

Of course the big wigs like Lou Engle (look him up and witness the creepy rocking back and forth he does when even just talking casually), Redding California’s Bill Johnson (probably the most well known “Apostle”) and partner in crime Rick Joyner fully acquiesce Bentley’s lunacy. Most of these men have been involved in restoring Bentley to a place of proper “ministry” again after his leaving his family for some younger fitter flesh.

Even if they were less toxic in their theology, it’s hard to get over the fact these leaders see Bentley’s craziness, in need of infecting Christendom yet again.

The “General” in the group is an admitted alcoholic slash recently reformed(?) homosexual named Paul Cain.
Urban folklore in these circles reports of electrical power fluctuations when he enters the room (seriously) because of the mega-anointing he apparently possesses. After being witnessed practicing “sausage-swapping” and publicly drunk, Paul decided he was done with ministry for good.

But apparently he too has benefited from a full restoration and has recently taken up the scepter once again.

Occultish Practices

Unfortunately, most found in this movement, do so without real understanding of the true heresy behind the doctrines. “I just want to love Jesus”, is commonly heard, without any concern for that boring ol’theology. The more you look into these so-called Apostolic Reformation prophets, the crazier things get. Things like lying on graveyard tombs in order to suck the anointing from dead faith healers, meditations originating in Buddhism, crawling around on all fours grunting like a pig or “barking in the spirit” are regulars at these wrongly defined “moves of God”.

If you see any clips of these so called moves of God, it’s much like seeing a major vehicular catastrophe. You don’t want to look, but curiosity lures your eyeballs. Convulsions, shaking, crying, barking, folks crawling around on all fours, rocking back and forth and nuthouse laughter are all part of the show. It looks like a train burst through the wall and meat-waffled everyone in the room.

These sorts of Cirque-de-Soleil antics are said to be what happens when the Holy Spirit enters a person’s body. According to them, “the Holy Spirit will be boxed in by no one”! (But He will be subject to them).
The idea of God not being held by any barriers seems to hold water. But as the WFer declares this, he hypocritically demands that God keep His promises (as if God was some shyster looking to get out of keeping a bargain or something).

Behind the Madness

At the center of such movements are ideas such as a Christian’s faith being the deciding factor in healing and miracles, therefore somewhat robbing God of His sovereignty. The idea that if you “declare” something, the universe has to obey. No need to ask, just declare! Jesus, according to HC and WFers, gave up His Godship before Christmas, came as only a man and then again received God status after His resurrection. So each and every WFer believes they can achieve Jesus-like status during their lifetime. According to WFer’s own prophets, the major WF Apostle is so holy and anointed, that all past biblical prophets will be lining up to shake their hands when their time here on earth ends.

Over and over I had to go to the books on this and make sure I had my facts straight. It’s just so out there! And over and over my body released troubled gasps into the atmosphere the more I got to the bottom of things. I mean, what you see at a WF or Hyper C church is just so visually charged and different, that a little part of you wonders,

“Could it actually be God? I mean I know it looks just nuts, but are they right in saying that the things of God are foolishness to the world? Is this what God looks like when He shows up?”

Bored Christians

For a lot of people, the draw is simply and innocently that they actually got bored of the non-challenging dribble from the pulpit, plaid skirts, tweed jackets and pipe organs. They genuinely wanted more of God and these churches guarantee a supernatural experience. So bored Christians jump ship, and their money goes with them right into the new pulpit Jockey’s pocket.

Prosperity Heresy

A close friend relayed a little tale recently of a young man at his small group who announced he was heading off to attend an offshoot of Azusa Now. He came back agitated from having to fend off a woman at the alter crawling around, bumping into him and grunting like a pig (while he was there praying). He also was indirectly compelled into giving them his rent money in order to receive much more back from God (the experienced WF speaker is skilled in the power of suggestion and some even suggest in mass hypnosis as well). The young man now risks eviction.

Yet another lie taught by WFers is perfect health and riches (prosperity preaching). It’s like an ecclesiastical Ponzy Scheme. Kenneth and Gloria Copeland have their own private airplane collection (including WWII fighters) by way of receiving people’s “seed faith” offerings.

New Agers: No Interest

Not surprising is the fact that very few ‘paganistic’ New Agers make the jump to Word Faith when coming to faith in Christ. The two are so similar in creeds and ideas. Right away the ex-New Agers recognize that WF is nothing other than a different division in the cults. In fact they are identical in believing that the faith you yourself possess as being the prime mover in your mystical experiences.

Borrowing from the last chapter in the Gospel of John (21:25), “its possible that all the books in the world could not contain”… the questionable practices of the Hyper Charismatic Word of Faith movement!

The Bible: Not the Measuring Stick it Was

But how does such movement away from the Orthodox hermeneutics of scripture happen? The answer is the same as in what happens at the beginning of every cult. Leaders add, twist or take away from the written Word.

In the case of the WF movement, they have focused on one biblical thought: the Rhema Word.
The Rhema Word is the utterance of Jesus Christ (the word of Prophecy). God speaks through an individual.
The problem has come when the Word Faith movement has placed the Rhema Word ahead of the Logos Word (written word of God; Bible) through a whole lot of bad “exegesis” (defining the absolute meaning) of scripture. Putting the Rhema Word ahead of the Logos Word has allowed the snake charmers to ‘eisegete’ (twisting scripture to suit their ideas) verses of scripture instead of the much-needed exegesis. This has allowed a whole lot of new ideas to permeate this ‘Charismania’.

Without the ability to prove the Prophetic Word against the written scripture (remember, unofficially, to the WFer, the Logos word is inferior to the Rhema) all sorts of craziness spews forth (1 John 4:1). Thus the WF movement sits on shifting sands. It’s like the Koran in a sense: the latter prophecy puts to rest the older prophetic word.

Even worse, the Apostles say God often puts false prophecies in the mouths of his true prophets (therefore giving those hail-Mary prophecies room to be totally wrong).

The godly discernment of both leader and disciple in the WF congregation is non-existent. Sadly, many WFers think that they are acting out Christianity in its rawest and purest form.

They do excel in boldness in Jesus.

They have the “love thing” down, and they are usually very welcoming and generous.
But they have also been blazingly fooled by copious legions of demonic spirits whose sole purpose is to deceive.

When God Actually Shows Up

So if all this is so desperately wrong, what does it look like when the Holy Spirit shows His presence amongst believers?

Can healing take place?

Yes, absolutely.

Can visions and prophecies happen?

Again, yes, the Word says so.

But WFers miss the main purpose of worship, and that is to focus on God, not what we hope to experience. We are actually there to give glory to God. Many WFers do acquiesce their purpose in worship is to bring glory to God. But nonetheless, their excitement comes from what they themselves will get out of the experience.

What if truly experiencing God meant experiencing Him in the pain of His suffering on the cross. Would the stadiums be full of people ready to “give it all” to God? I have my doubts.
Its like they are coming to church to get high. In fact one of their writers described the WF worship experience as “toquing on the Ghost”. Any chance he could have been more blasphemous?
Their focus is on what they have come to get, not on what they have come to give.

When God shows His presence in a group, yes we may see healing; we may hear prophetic words. But we may also see repentance happen, restoration or the fruits of the Spirit becoming evident of a strengthening in a believer’s life.

Jesus did signs and wonders in order to prove he was the coming Messiah written of in the Old Testament. After Jesus had risen from the grave, we see most signs and wonders from the apostles followed by salvation reactions (the whole reason for signs and wonders in the first place). Healings and restorations were now a way for the Christians to prove this Jesus was still alive and well. The results most times were changed lives.
Considering just how hard it is to change while we are still wrapped in this corrupt flesh, salvation is a miraculous thing in itself!

As well, these things glorify God in themselves and are subject to the written Word of God, which is, without a doubt, our best safeguard against going off the rails.

Worship responsibly!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

JG Smoothy
JG Smoothy is a musician and the writer of UNDERSTANDING THIS JESUS THING. He has one wonderful wife and three crazy children. JG is a pastor in Southern Alberta Canada and is in the middle of yet another book writing project.

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