It’s been said that whereas Christianity is dying in the West, it is growing by leaps and bounds in Africa. But is this truly the case?

Unfortunately, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that much of the teachings in African churches are steeped in what I recently discovered to be the Word of Faith (WoF) movement. Perhaps one of the most toxic theologies exported from the United States, the Word of Faith teachings have infiltrated the African church leading undiscerning congregants astray.

Having personally fallen victim to its deception in the past, I believe this teaching must be exposed and fought tooth and nail for the sake of the Biblical gospel. Hence this post.

What is the Word of Faith Movement?

The Word of Faith is a movement led by a network of charismatic preachers who teach that it’s God’s desire for every born-again believer to have health, wealth, and prosperity. 

Also known as the “prosperity gospel”, the Word of Faith movement teaches Christians that they can control the outcome of their lives through positive thinking and speaking. They hold that faith can be manipulated through the spoken word to make the promises in Scripture become a reality for the believer.

Some of the key figures involved in this movement include Kenneth Hagin Sr., Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, Kenneth & Gloria Copeland, Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Joseph Prince, Joyce Meyer, David Oyedepo, Creflo Dollar, Andrew Wommack, Jesse Duplantis, Chris Oyakhilome, Jerry Savelle, Paul and Jan Crouch ( the late founders of TBN), and many more.

Who Started the Word of Faith Movement?

The Word of Faith theology finds its roots in the New Thought Movement. The New Thought Movement was a metaphysical (beyond the physical) cult in the 19th century founded by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby (1802-1866). Quimby was an American mental healer who also dabbled in the occult, parapsychology, and hypnosis.

The movement held the false belief that you attract what you think about. This means that if you think positive thoughts, these thoughts will engage the universal law of attraction and bring positive things to you and vice versa.

Note: The law of attraction is a New Thought teaching that is still relevant today within the New Age. According to the law of attraction, we are divine beings who have the ability to attract what we think or say. 

As such, Phineas Quimby taught that sickness and disease were a result of negative thoughts. Therefore, healing could be achieved by doing the opposite, exercising positive thought.

In the latter half of the 20th century, a man named Esseck William Kenyon (1867–1948); a Methodist minister who later switched to Pentecostalism, studied Quimby’s metaphysical beliefs. He then decided to mix the metaphysical beliefs with his Pentecostal leanings by incorporating them into his healing ministry.  

This merging of Pentecostalism and metaphysical teachings gave birth to an aberrant theology that we know today to be the Word of Faith. Hence why he is referred to as the grandfather of the Word of Faith movement.

Consequently, Kenyon’s teachings had a great impact on Kenneth Erwin Hagin (1917-2003). If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you’ve probably heard of him. He is well-known and revered in many Charismatic/Pentecostal circles for his Word of Faith teachings.

While he credits his teachings to heavenly revelations from Jesus, a good number of scholars agree that Hagin was strongly influenced by Kenyon’s writings because much of his work and sermons have been shown to include plagiarism from his writings.

Nonetheless, his teachings are what made the WoF movement what it is today. In fact, many charismatics refer to him as “Dad Hagin” because of the extent to which his impact can be seen in the movement as a whole.

Among the teachers who were greatly inspired by Hagin today are Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn to name a couple. They have in turn had a great impact on other teachers like Creflo Dollar, David Oyedepo, Jesse Duplantis, and so on. 

One can clearly see the ripple effect because many of the mainstream prosperity preachers that we see in the West and Africa today, draw their inspiration directly from Hagin, Copeland, and Hinn in one form or the other.

What Does the Word of Faith Movement Teach?

Before we get into some of the foundational errors that this movement rides on, it’s worth noting that not everything that the proponents of this movement teach is blatantly false. They often mix biblical truth with lies. And that’s what makes their teachings so dangerous.

Furthermore, individual teachings can differ from one WoF preacher to another. But one thing you can always count on is that they are experts at taking verses out of context and twisting them to support their false teachings.

With that in mind. Here are the main teachings that the WoF is built upon:

1.  The force of faith

Central to the Word of Faith movement is the idea that faith is a “force”. The force of faith is seen as a power that can be used to create things. Therefore, they teach that God used the force of faith to speak the universe into existence. 

In his faith series lesson no. 21 titled, The God Kind of Faith, Kenneth E. Hagin wrote:

God created the universe with words. Words filled with faith are the most powerful things in all the world.” Here’s the link.

And in tape one of a sermon called Spirit, Soul, and Body, Kenneth Copeland said:

God did not create the world out of nothing, He used the Force of His Faith.

image from rhema.org

The argument goes that since God used faith-filled words to create the universe, then it follows that believers, being his image bearers can do the same (Gen 1:26-27). As such, they teach that we have the ability to influence the faith force through “positive confession“.

This means that a believer can activate the force of faith by repeating certain positive words or promises. In this view, the force of faith is seen as a spiritual law that can be used to get God to fulfill their desires.

In his book, Having Faith in Your Faith, pp. 3-4 Kenneth Hagin wrote the following to this effect:

It used to bother me when I’d see unsaved people getting results [miracles], but my church members not getting results. Then it dawned on me what the sinners were doing: They were cooperating with this law of God – the law of faith.

So what happens if you’re speaking positive things into existence and nothing is changing? What if you’ve summed up all the faith you have to be healed, to land that new job or whatever and you have no results to show for it? In this case, WoF teachers will chock it up to a lack of enough faith on your part. Consequently, putting a huge burden on the believer.

Moreover, this concept of faith practically makes an idol out of it. In Christianity, God is the object of our faith but in the WoF movement, God is also subject to faith. They are essentially teaching Christians to have faith in their faith, a concept with no Scriptural basis.

2. Little gods Doctrine 

In Gen 1:26 the Bible says that God made man in His own image. Based on this verse, the Word of Faith movement makes the bold claim that men are  “little gods”. They assert that before the fall, man shared in the divine nature of God. 

In a tape titled, Following the Faith of Abraham (#01-3001), Kenneth Copeland said the following:

God’s reason for creating Adam was to reproduce Himself. God and Adam looked exactly alike. Adam was God manifested in the flesh. Therefore, Adam was not subordinate to God.” You can watch it here.

In another tape titled, The Authority of the Believer IV (#01-0304), Copeland also said:

God and Adam looked exactly alike. Jesus and Adam looked, acted, and sounded exactly alike. All of God’s attributes and abilities were invested in Adam.

And while preaching a sermon titled, Made After His Kind, Creflo Dollar asked the congregations the following:

If horses get together, they produce what?” Congregation: “Horses!” Creflo: “If dogs get together, they produce what?” Congregation: “Dogs!” Creflo: “If cats get together, they produce what?” Congregation: “Cats!” Creflo “So if the Godhead says ‘Let us make man in our image’, and everything produces after its own kind, then they produce what?” Congregation: “gods!” Creflo then asserted: “Now I got to hit this thing real hard in the very beginning because I ain’t got time to go through all this but I’m going to say to you right now you are gods little g. You are gods because you came from God and you are gods you’re not just human the only human part about you is this physical body that you live in. The real me is just like God.” Here is the link.

According to proponents of the movement, after the fall, Adam forfeited his status as a god. When he sinned, he granted satan legal dominion over the earth and the nature of Satan came upon him.

The fall meant that mankind’s potential to exert influence over the earth as gods was derailed. Therefore, mankind now needed to reclaim control of the earth from Satan. How this is achieved according to the WoF movement is by being a born-again Christian.

In this view, the goal of Jesus’ coming was to restore humanity to godhood. Thus, salvation takes on a whole new meaning. As per the WoF teachings, salvation is the process of removing the nature of Satan from man and reintroducing the nature of God he once had. 

In his book, Word Of Faith pg. 14, Kenneth Hagin wrote:

You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was…the believer is as much an incarnation as was Jesus of Nazareth”

In Praise-a-thon (a program that used to air on TBN), recorded in November 1990, Benny Hinn said the following:

Christians are little messiahs. Christians are little gods.

So why all this gymnastics around the message of the Gospel? The proponents of the WoF must make man equal to God so that they can lay the claim that believers cannot and shouldn’t be sick or poor. Logically speaking, a god cannot be poor and a god certainly cannot be sick.

Therefore, according to WoF theology, man’s problem isn’t a sin problem but a dominion problem. Far from being the good news that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins so that we might become children of God, we see the good news here being cheapened to a quest for divinity.

As if this teaching couldn’t get any worse, they further assert that God can’t act without man’s consent. They claim that after the fall, similar to Adam, God lost His legal right to interfere with the affairs of planet Earth and has been kicked out ever since. Therefore, for God to do anything on earth, He needs permission from believers for His will to be done. 

A good example of this was on Benny Hinn’s television program “This is your day”, that aired in 2004. He said to the late Myles Munroe:

Pastor we get the mind of god about his will with prayer. When we praywe give him legal right to perform.

Myles Munroe answered:

Yes let me define prayer for you in this show. Prayer is man giving God permission or license to interfere in earth’s affairs. In other words, prayer is the earthly license for heavenly interference… God could do nothing on Earth, nothing has God ever done on Earth, without a human giving him access. So he’s always looking for a human to give him power permission. In other words, God has the power, but you have the permission. God has the authority and the power, you’ve got the license. So even though God could do anything, he can only do what you permit him to do” Here’s the link.

Also in tape (#01-300) titled, Following the Faith of Abraham, Kenneth Copeland asserts:

God could not intervene since He had made Adam the god of the earth. God was left on the outside looking in.”

Not only is man elevated to a god-status, he’s also subtly deceived into believing that he has the ability to influence his creator. But nothing could be further from the truth. God is sovereign over His creation, fully governing everything. And He isn’t waiting for us to give him permission to do anything. The Bible says:

Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Psalm 135:6 ESV
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3 ESV 

Moreover, as nice as it sounds, we are not “little gods” neither are we gods nor duplicates of God. We are made in the image of God in the sense that we are unique from the rest of God’s creation. Through a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, we have the potential and capacity to know God, a privilege that no other created order has. 

This is essentially the oldest lie ever told to mankind; that we can become like God (Gen 3:5). We shouldn’t fall for it.

3. The Power of the Tongue

The Word of Faith Movement places great emphasis on the power of words. They teach that you can speak whatever you want into existence by harnessing the force of your faith. Since we are ‘little gods’, acquiring health and wealth is as simple as naming and claiming, or decreeing and declaring them to exist. 

In his faith series lesson no. 21 titled The God Kind of Faith, Kenneth E. Hagin wrote:

The key to the God kind of faith is believing with the heart and confessing with the mouth. Our lips can make us millionaires or keep us paupers. Our lips can make us victors or keep us captives. We can fill our words with faith or we can fill our words with doubt….Our faith will never rise above the words of our lips.” Here’s the link.

On page 2 of The power of I am by Joel Osteen, he wrote the following:

 “You need to send out some new invitations. Get up in the morning and invite good things into your life. “I am blessed. I am strong. I am talented. I am wise. I am disciplined. I am focused. I am prosperous.” When you talk like that, talent gets summoned by Almighty God: “Go find that person.” Health, strength, abundance, and discipline start heading your way.

Conversely, they believe that speaking negative words will result in a negative reality. 

In a Woman Thou Art Loosed, conference dubbed  “Seize the Moment”, in 2000 T. D. Jakes had this to say:

 “It’s what you say to yourself that gets you healed. If you say that you won’t be healed you won’t be healed. If you say that you are broke you will stay broke. Oh! But I came to serve notice on the Devil. The Bible says, ‘The power of life and death is in the tongue. Slap somebody and say, ‘You better speak to yourself.

In a sermon titled, Dwelling in His Presence, Andrew Wommack said the following:

If you are reaping sickness it’s because you’ve thought sickness. It may not be that you’ve thought all right I want to be sick but you’ve thought things that allow sickness to dominate you. Such things as well I’m only human, I’m just a man, it’s flu season i gotta get sick because it’s flu season. You may not have sat there and thought I want the flu but you’ve thought things that made you inferior to flu and that made you only human. You were denying and not focused on who you are in Christ that no plague will come nigh your dwelling and you have thought things that made you susceptible to satan stealing your health.” Here’s the link.

This teaching on the power of words is prominent within the church today. Indeed, our words have power, but they are not causative. God is the only one with the power to speak things into existence. He is the one in whom we should place our faith. Not our words or faith itself (Mark 11:22).

I have debunked the misinterpretation of verses popularly used to support the power of the tongue in my article on decreeing and declaring. Feel free to check it out.

Sadly, Christians who follow these teaching are unaware that by doing so, they are engaging in the New Age, New Thought practice of manifesting. The only difference is this one is baptized in Christian lingo.

In essence, what the Word of Faith movement does is replace the universe with God, the law of attraction with the faith force, human divinity with little gods, and manifesting with positive confession.

4. The Prosperity Gospel

This is the most prominent teaching from this movement. As we’ve already established, the WoF movement holds the belief that Jesus Christ’s atoning death includes granting every born-again Christian the right to good health and material wealth. All you need is to speak faith-filled words and sow seeds (money) to manifest it.

They claim that God doesn’t use suffering for our benefit and that this notion is a deception of Satan. Consequently, if someone isn’t prospering, it’s because they’ve given Satan control over their lives and it’s up to them to use the force of faith to command God to unleash His blessings.

Scripture, however, fervently warns against the love of money (1 Timothy 6:3-10). The prosperity gospel, in contrast, encourages greed at the expense of the true gospel. Indeed! Sickness was atoned for on the cross but until we are glorified it’s not a guarantee on this side of eternity. If it was, the Apostles wouldn’t have had to endure suffering as they proclaimed the gospel (Col 1:24). 

It is also clear that suffering and persecution for the believer is to be expected (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12). God uses trials such as sickness or lack of money to sanctify us and perfect our faith (James 1:2-3; Rom 5: 3-5). The prosperity gospel, on the other hand, makes promises on behalf of God that are not coherent with His Word making it a false teaching.

Jesus said, 

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19–21 ESV.

Please check out our post on A Christian Perspective: What Does the Bible Say About Suffering? to learn more about what the Bible says about suffering.

5. Sowing Seeds of Faith Teachings

You’re probably aware that the property gospel is characterized by the Seed sowing teaching. Unfortunately, this fallacious notion is also a brainchild of the Word of Faith movement. 

It entails coercing followers into sowing “seeds”, and giving tithes. This is done in “faith,” with the expectation that God will repay their monetary sacrifice or multiply it. Thanks to the Word of Faith movement, this deceptive teaching has spread like gangrene among churches. Sadly, it’s only serving to enrich greedy wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Poverty comes from Hell. Prosperity comes from Heaven. Adam had complete dominion over the earth and all it contains. A. Adam could fly like a bird. B. Adam could swim underwater and breathe like a fish. Adam went to the moon. Adam walked on water. Adam was a super being; He was the first superman that lived. Adam had dominion over the sun, moon & stars. Christians do not have Christ in their hearts. Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God. - Benny Hinn

In a sermon titled Heirs of The Promise II in 2005, T.D. Jakes was quoted saying:

“When you sow seeds into this kind of anointing it releases the power of God that you can harvest. And I want you to get this scripture and read it and believe God with me Genesis 26:12. As we sow, I believe that we’re going to experience a resurrection…Genesis 26:12, it says, ‘Then Isaac sowed in that land and received in that same year a 100 fold and the Lord blessed him.’ This year is your year to receive. You need to sow it and receive it this year. This is your year of destiny.” 

And in Praise-a-Thon, recorded in November 1990, Benny Hinn said:

Sow a big seed, when you confess it, you are activating the supernatural forces of God.”

But here’s the thing, we cannot use our monetary gifts or faith to bribe God. The teaching of sowing seeds of faith not only manipulates people into giving their money in exchange for a blessing or a breakthrough but also encourages a transactional relationship with God where the object of our faith is not God but the faith in the money we give. 

It portrays money as having some type of ability to sway God’s will, which is an insult to God’s divine essence. Not to mention, this commodification of Christianity turns its adherents into merchandise. As a result, it has made the majority of the WOF preachers extraordinarily prosperous and wealthy (2 Peter 2:1-3).

To learn whether Christians are under the obligation to tithe, please check out our blog post on Is Tithing a Requirement for New Testament Believers?

6. The Person and Work of Jesus

The WoF movement has a very distorted view of Jesus Christ and the atonement. According to its proponents, Jesus never claimed to be God. They teach that He was a human being like you and me during the three years of his public ministry. He was simply a prophet anointed by the Holy Spirit hence why He could perform miracles. 

On page 8 of his book titled, Hear and Be Healed, Kenneth Hagin wrote:

Of course, Jesus stands in a class by Himself, personally, and as Deity. But when it comes to ministry, Jesus does not stand in a class by Himself…Even though Jesus was the Son of God, and divine blood flowed through His veins, yet He was ministering on earth as a human being, a prophet anointed with the Holy Spirit.” 

In a sermon titled, Jesus’ Growth into Sonship,  in 2002, Creflo Dollar said:

“Here’s what I want you to get here. If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? If Jesus — see God’s already been anointed. If Jesus came as God, then why did God have to anoint Him? Jesus came as a man, that’s why it was legal to anoint him. God doesn’t need anointing, He is anointing. Jesus came as a man, and at age 30 God is now getting ready to demonstrate to us, and give us an example of what a man, with the anointing, can do.” Here’s the link.

Furthermore, they teach that on the crucifixion, Jesus experienced physical and spiritual death. In order to rescue humanity He assumed the form of Satan and went to hell. In hell, Satan and his legions of demons tortured Jesus for three days and nights where He died spiritually. This was how Jesus atoned for our sins. 

However, because Jesus had never committed a sin, Satan brought him to hell against his will. This “technicality”, therefore, allowed God to employ His “force of faith” to resuscitate Jesus’ body, as well as his spirit and divine character. Jesus was then “born again,” emerging from the grave with the nature of God.

In this view, Jesus bought our salvation in hell. This opened the door for Christians to experience exactly what occurred to Jesus when they get born again. They become little gods, having their satanic nature replaced with God’s divine nature. As a result, they become just as much an embodiment of God as Jesus was.

Todd White on lifestyle Christianity, in 2017 said this:

Jesus you know, He walked and lived as a man and he didn’t he didn’t live as God on the earth. The reality of this thing is that Jesus Christ He pays the price for us to be made right with God. Jesus goes to hell, I believe He went to Hades, went down and descended into the depths of the earth for three days and he pays for the sin of mankind but on the third day, on the third day He got the keys to both health, death, and the grave. Got those keys came up out of there was resurrected that day and all of a sudden everything was about to shift.” Here’s the link.

This is a blasphemous and heretical view of Jesus Christ that is nowhere to be found in Scripture. When Jesus came to earth, he did so as fully God and fully man. And he certainly claimed to be God in several instances

For example, in John 8:58 he said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” This claim referred to his equality with Yahweh The Great “I AM” in Exodus 3:14. The Jews understood what He meant by this. In response, they began throwing stones at Him for claiming it to be God.

Furthermore, the erroneous teaching on the atonement is plainly refuted by John 10:17–18 which says:

"For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:17‭-‬18 ESV

Note: While some of the main proponents and leaders of  Word-Faith have openly professed the above doctrines, many of the Christians within the movement do not espouse its blatantly heretical and blasphemous teachings. Most are theologically uninformed about them.

Why the Word of Faith Teachings Are Dangerous

Most Christians are familiar with “the prosperity Gospel” and the “speaking things into existence” teachings that come from this movement. However, as you have seen that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Those teachings are simply a few of the fruits that fall from a corrupt and even blasphemous theological tree. Ironically, most radical proponents of the WoF movement claim divine revelation as proof that what they teach is Biblical. 

image from inspiredwalk.com

But God doesn’t contradict himself (Num 23:19). Yet, this movement rejects and distorts almost all the core doctrines of the Christian faith clearly taught by the Scripture. You can check our statement of faith to see what these doctrines are.

But in a nutshell, the Word of Faith movement undermines the doctrine of the Trinity and the attributes of God, the sufficiency of Scripture, salvation, and the person and the work of Jesus Christ. Resulting in the demoting of God to make him look human and deifying man to make him like God. 

Moreover, the fact that they preach a different Jesus and downplay and misrepresent the work of the cross proves that they preach a different Gospel, a pattern that is also common in cults. But isn’t that why many people find its teachings so alluring? Not only does it appeal to the most fundamental human needs i.e. health and wealth but it also affirms that we are gods.

But this should come as no surprise since the Bible says,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ESV

These teachings are merely an appeal to the flesh. They are perfectly in line with the serpent’s lie (Gen 3:5). Hence, I’m suggesting that the teachings of the Word of Faith prosperity movement are more consistent with the doctrine of demons than they are with the Bible. 

Conclusion 

Most proponents of the Word of Faith movement are revered as spiritual fathers in many hyper-charismatic and Pentecostal churches. They are looked up to as saints and they regard them and their teachings as being anointed. 

Hence, a huge number of Christians in the church today are listening to a false man-centered gospel that places us instead of Christ at the center of attention. Because of teachings like these, millions of people are hearing a distorted presentation of the Gospel.

They’ve convinced many that they speak for God and shouldn’t be touched or questioned. However, their teachings are detrimental to anyone aspiring to live a sound Christian life. They foster an unhealthy and prideful regard for the self and an unbridled desire for prosperity and success at the expense of a genuine desire to follow Christ.

Moreover, the idea that you are divine and a little god essentially means that everything falls on you. You are responsible for every situation you are in and if you don’t have enough faith to change it, you’re doomed. I don’t know about you but this doesn’t sound like good news to me.

However, Jesus Christ says,

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 ESV

This is the good news of Jesus Christ: repent of your sins, believe what He accomplished, and you will be saved. Christ has already paid the penalty, and taken on himself all of God’s wrath by dying on the cross for our sins. The only work that we have to do is believe in that (John 6:29).

This is why the Bible emphasizes the importance of having sound doctrine above all else. If we do not study the Scriptures then we are essentially target practice for the enemy. The word of God is the sword of the Spirit that guards us from wolves in sheep’s clothing. 


Disclaimer: Please know that this blog post isn’t meant as a sinful attack but as a Biblical commentary. This is a topic close to my heart because, in addition to being deceived by it myself, others have also been deceived by it. Bad theology hurts people, as such, I believe that it should be called out (Jude: 3-4).

I am not flawless, and I can make mistakes. I take none of this lightly, so I welcome criticism. But please don’t comment in support of the false teaching mentioned in the post. Take this as an encouragement to search the Scriptures further concerning the WoF movement and its teachings.

Please let me know if you have any proof that any of the aforementioned teachers have renounced and repented of their incorrect doctrine. I’d love to alter their article to demonstrate truthfulness.

Last but not least, those of us who follow Jesus should not see false instructors as enemies. We should ask God to bring them to repentance. We should pray that God will guide them, if they are saved, to only teach the truth in His Word.

Resources:

Author

Share this article on:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.