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Posted On October 25, 2018

The movement known as “Word of Faith” is a branch off of the Pentecostal movement. In the late 20th century, E. W. Kenyon studied under Phineas Quimby and was taught a system known as “New Thought” that connected the mind with God’s Word in such a way that what we think and speak is brought into reality by God. This is where the “name it and claim it” theology originated. Quimby would pass on his teachings to men like Kenneth Hagin, and he would, in turn, make his own disciples.

Today, the “Word of Faith” movement is enormous—and is the prominent flavor of theology found on the popular Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). When you hear popular voices like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer speak, they are employing the tactics of the Word of Faith system. It is one thing to criticize Joel Osteen’s preaching on various different levels—both serious and jokingly (such as on The Babylon Bee)—but at the foundation, what’s wrong with this approach to preaching?

Word of Faith Preaching Replaces the εαγγέλιον (Good News) with Carpe Diem

The common accent of Word of Faith preaching is centered upon your ability to claim “victory”, “peace”, “happiness”, or—in the words of Joel Osteen—“your best life now”. Rather than preaching the gospel, the Word of Faith preachers major on what can be seized by the power of a person’s will.

First, unbelievers will die and go to Hell with the “carpe diem” theology. Getting more material wealth and seeking fleshly happiness will not remove the stain of sin. Why do people who embrace the Word of Faith theology go into jails and spend all of their precious time teaching people how to “declare” blessings and speak in tongues as opposed to majoring on their need of the gospel of Christ?

Secondly, the church needs the gospel rather than a message of “do better” or “work harder” to achieve happiness. The pulpit must be known for rich expositions of God’s Word rather than superficial sermonettes filled with mystical “pie in the sky” theology. One serious critique of this type of preaching must be this question, “Where is the Gospel?”  The Word of Faith theology focuses on getting people rich rather than making disciples through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Word of Faith Preaching Replaces God’s Word with Man’s Word

True biblical preaching focuses on the text of Scripture and seeks to explicate the truths of the text in order to present the glorious truths of God before the eyes and ears of men. The preaching of men like Joel Osteen and women like Joyce Meyer focuses on the power of man’s words. This position replaces the power of God’s Word with the frail words of sinful men. This is a tragic mistake.

According to the Word of Faith movement, if you speak it, your words have power to create, heal, and—in a negative manner—to destroy and kill. Therefore, they major on the power of the spoken word. Regarding sickness, you will hear people who embrace the Word of Faith system talking about “not speaking” about sickness as if the words matter. In sermons by Word of Faith teachers, you will hear them instructing their congregations to “declare” certain words in order to “gain their victory” or “receive their happiness”.

In an article about using words to declare victory over depression, Joel Osteen writes:

It’s time to use our words to declare good things! Speak blessings over your life and your family. Throughout the day, say things such as, “I have the favor of God. I am strong and healthy. I’m well able to do what I need to do.” [1]

Word of Faith Preaching Replaces the Holy Spirit with Emotions

The worship services where Word of Faith theology is being employed rely on the movement of people’s emotions rather than the power of the Holy Spirit. The flavor and accent of such preaching strikes at the heart of people’s needs. Perhaps they have a disease that needs to be healed or a financial crisis that needs to be resolved; if they will just claim their victory or declare their financial blessing—according to the Word of Faith teachers—they will receive it.

The fuel of this movement is largely emotional, and it feeds upon the needs—often serious needs—of people.  Rather than pointing people to a sovereign God who has spoken the world into existence and is capable of providing for the needs of His people, they manipulate people into a trance-like state where they encourage them to make powerful declarations and to believe it by faith. In the case of many like Joel Osteen, their sermon becomes a mixture of motivational speech, psychology, and mysticism.

Elizabeth A. Nixon, in her article titled, Are You Decreeing and Declaring in Your Prayers? writes the following about using declarations in prayer:

In Hebrew, decree means “to divide, separate and destroy.” This definition reveals more of what happens in the spiritual realm. When we decree, “I am blessed” (inspired by Psalm 112:1), we establish the blessing while separating ourselves from anything purposed against it and destroying the plans of the enemy. When we decree, “My children are strong and full of integrity” (inspired by Psalm 112:2), we divide our children’s strength from their weakness and separate dishonesty and unrighteousness from within their midst and in their hearts. When we decree, “My home brims with wealth” (inspired by Psalm 112:3), we establish our wealth and destroy the spirits of lack and poverty. [2]

Notice how the language is centered on the raw needs of people in this article. This decree and declare tactic of the Word of Faith movement turns God into a cosmic bellhop rather than the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the entire universe.

True biblical preaching points people to God’s Word where they will be led to submit to God and His will. We are led to pray as Jesus taught us and to trust in the supernatural power of our God to accomplish His will. True biblical preaching is text-centered, Spirit-empowered, and God-exalting. True biblical preaching provides us with a proper perspective of ourselves in light of a biblical revelation of God. This approach changes how we look at life, tragedy, praises, and shapes how we pray.

The Word of Faith movement does the exact opposite, and for that reason, we must avoid such a model to preaching and worship because it belittles the glory of God, bypasses the sovereignty of God, teaches an improper view of man, and veils the true gospel of Christ.

References:

  1. Joel Osteen, Change Your Words, Change Your World, Shape Your Future [accessed 10/1/17]
  1. Elizabeth Nixon, Are You Decreeing and Declaring in Your Prayers? [accessed 10-17-17]

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