"Where have all the flowers gone
Gone to demons every one."
Fracturing a 1960s antiwar song
Why these pictures? We'll get to that shortly.
The size of the association known as the ARC.
In a comment yesterday, I used an old link to determine the size of this organization. It underestimated the numbers. According to ARC's website:
The organization maintains an annual funding base of $2 million dollars with ARC churches giving over $8 million a year to missions. Today, over 400 churches strong, ARC has become not only a movement, but a collection of many “tribes” – all with a focus of planting those 2000 churches and impacting the world!
Remember the hoopla about Sovereign Grace Ministries being the *experts* in church planting? ARC leaves them in the dust. Not only are they growing rapidly, but some of their churches are huge. Remember the awe of the Reformed crowd on the attendance at Mark Driscoll's Mars Hill? In its heyday, we were talking about 14,000. Here are a few numbers from ARC.
- Gateway Church: 36,000 active members
- Church of the Highlands: 20,000 members
- The Healing Place: 6,000 members (2012)
- Celebration Church: 12,000 members
This is stunning, especially since they are adding churches almost daily. Take a look at this list of upcoming church plants.
Why focus on Church of the Highlands?
ARC central is located in Birmingham. Chris Hodges, the pastor of COH, is part of the lead team of the ARC. This group appears to function as overseers for particular churches. They help each other out. So, Hodges would not oversee his church but could oversee other churches in the network .For example the Overseers for COH are:
Pastor Rick Bezet – New Life Church, Arkansas
Pastor Robert Morris – Gateway Church, Texas
Pastor Tom Mullins – Christ Fellowship, Florida
Pastor Larry Stockstill – Bethany World Prayer Center, Louisiana
Pastor Greg Surratt – Seacoast Church, South Carolina
We will discuss structure as we progress in this series. In the meantime, it is important to understand that Hodges is highly influential in the ARC. It is my opinion that whatever goes at COH will be encouraged in other churches. COH has done us a favor by providing documentation of their beliefs in the Prayer Force document. I commend them for their transparency. We plan to look at how Robert Morris is putting COH's demon theology into practice next week.
Part Two: The Church of the Highlands (COH) Prayer Force Training Leaders Guide link
Today, we are going to further list the various beliefs/practices found in this lengthy document. There is so much here that in-depth discussion of each point is impossible in this post. Also, because of time limitations, we are not touching on large segments of the document. We urge everyone to read it for yourselves.
We will be looking more closely at a number of these beliefs and practices in the weeks to come. Much of what you will read in the document has been bandied about Christian circles for decades. However, this is one of the first times that we have seen it so carefully codified in one document. So, hold onto your hats. If you want to skip directly to the demon stuff, scroll down to #13.
We start with the section on holiness.
1. Keep *demon* inspired music and movies out of your house.
Allowing things in our homes that are demon inspired. This would include movies and music created by people who are immoral and serve the devil. (P.20)
2. The evidence of the Holy Spirit in your life is your ability to speak in tongues. If you don't, you may be carnal.
All of the new believers at Pentecost spoke in tongues. Tongues are either the ability to communicate in a known human language that is unknown to you, or a spiritual language that no one but God understands. If you pursue the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of praying in tongues, your brain will challenge it because your mind can’t understand it. Your mind might say things like, “You’re making that up.” Or, “That’s of the devil.” But unless we want to be weak like Peter was when a little girl asked him if he knew Jesus, we will have to reject those carnal thoughts.
3. Spirit filled prayer, as practiced by Pastor Hodges, is normative.
… (ed. note-pls read his entire testimony which starts on P. 31)“With that being said, I want to tell you what is the most significant part of my Christian life – outside of salvation – and that is Spirit-filled prayer. About three months after I was saved, I started learning about this second experience described in the Bible. I asked the Lord to fill me with the Holy Spirit. At first because of my background and headiness, nothing really seemed to happen. I knew that I was the problem, and I came to a place where I was so hungry and desperate for God! Soon after, I was at a small group and we were discussing the baptism in the Holy Spirit. I knew my brain had reached its capacity. The hard drive was full, and I had all I could get in my natural man. I asked the people in the group to pray for me. I told them that I was struggling with it, but I really wanted it. I got down on my knees and the people laid hands on me and explained it to me. That night I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and my prayer language. This was in March of 1979, during my sophomore year in high school. Every day I pray in the Spirit – every day of my life. Every day that is a meaningful time for me.” (P.32)
… In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul tells the church, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.” (Verse 5) He also told them, “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” (Verse 18) (P.37)
4. You will not be effective in spiritual warfare without the baptism of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by tongues.
…It will assist you in spiritual warfare. This is a very critical reason to pray Holy Spirit assisted prayer. The devil desires to sift us like wheat and to destroy us. Sometimes the battle against the devil’s power seems overwhelming. (P.34)
5. You can demand that God let you speak in tongues. (Confess and possess.)
Father, I ask that I could experience Your presence and Your power as I never have before. Help me to win over my natural mind. I lay down every barrier – unforgiveness and pride and sin. I want to be innocent and take You at Your word. I trust You! I want everything You have for me. I receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit now, in Jesus name. It’s mine! (P.34)
6. God is a Spirit and He does not teach theology.
…God is a Spirit; He’s not a theology teacher, and He wants to connect with us in spirit. He wants us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. (p.39)
7. There is an observable *open heaven* over Church of the Highlands.
… Many have seen by the Spirit an open heaven over Church of the Highlands. The open heaven comes from the ministry of Holy Spirit who manifests Himself in response to our worship. (P.44)
8. Cover God with your prayer list and everything on your list will be added to you automatically.
…Sometimes people pray, “Lord, if it be Thy will….” What is His will? Lock in on His prayer list before you get to yours. If we seek His kingdom, everything you were going to ask for will be added to you automatically. Often, if we pray His agenda, we won’t even get to our list. We’ll know that He has us covered because we covered Him! (P. 52)
9. Confronting the devil is equated with confronting strongholds.
How do you resist the devil? It’s by daily making decisions to walk in obedience to God.
Whether we want to believe it or not, there is a devil who is making plans and schemes right now to destroy our lives. If we decide we don’t want to deal with him, we’re in trouble because he won’t bail out. Prayer is not only communing with God, it’s confronting strongholds. If we don’t learn how to confront the devil, we will become victims. (P.54)
10. There is another lengthy section on submitting to, agreeing with, and becoming bond-servants to the pastor.
…We began this study with the vision that our pastor has for our church. The reason for this is that we as a prayer force exist for one purpose – to serve our pastor and the vision the Lord has given him. (P.79)
… Our pastor and other leaders need us to cover them and immerse them in prayer. Being bond-servants to them should be our privilege considering that they keep watch over our souls and carry the weight of responsibility for our salvation and growth. In return they face resistance spiritually. They and their families personally bear the brunt of satan’s attacks. (p.80)
Sometimes we will be called to stake ourselves to a leader. God will give them an assignment that He never intended for them to carry through on their own. They will need our agreement and full support. (P.80)
11. Don't listen to super-spiritual people who might try to question what is going on.
Occasionally you may encounter “super-spiritual” people who will come with persuasive words designed to draw us away from the purity and simplicity of our devotion to the Lord, our pastor, and each other. They may seem very religious, but will not depend on the Holy Spirit or submit to our pastor and other leaders. (P.81)
12. God has given man His authority (P.88-95) which we have not used. We can heal the sick and raise the dead if we use this authority.
Lord, You have given me authority to overcome all the power of satan. You gave the earth to man, but we have not used the authority you gave us to subdue evil in the world. Forgive us!
I receive the crown of glory and choose to walk in the authority that You purchased through Your blood, Jesus. Hallelujah! You have in Your possession the keys of the kingdom. I operate confidently and with boldness in Your name to distribute your grace and mercy throughout this world.
Father, I know you are looking for those who will stand in the gap to intercede for the lost, the sick, those in need, and those in bondage. Here I am! Send me!
Help me, Holy Spirit to comprehend what it means to be filled with the fullness of God. Give me revelation of the incomparably great power I have as a believer.
I desire to go about doing good and healing all who are oppressed. Baptize me in fire so I can say with all confidence, “Look at me!” Give me opportunities to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Prayer on P.95)
Now we get to the demon stuff.
13. We are Introduced to the war with demons, etc.
Being in denial or ignorance does not take away the fact that there is a very real war going on. This war involves rulers, authorities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil. (P.97)
14. There are 3 levels of spiritual warfare: Ground, Occult and Strategic
- Ground level- casting out demons
- Occult level – warfare against the spiritual forces behind satanists, fortune tellers, and witches.
- Strategic level intercession-dealing with strongholds through prayer (P.98)
15. Explanation of the occult level: People are casting spells against Christians.
There are people right now casting spells – especially against Christians. They pray and fast for Christian leaders to fall. Certain areas of the country are more saturated with the occult, but it is everywhere. God has given the church power to overcome the occult, and we do not need to be afraid if it. The only answer for the occult is the church because we carry the only name that is above all other names – the name of Jesus. At the name of Jesus every demon must bow! (P.99)
16. Wherever the devil reigns, there is *consistently* unattractive architecture and no flowers!!!
You will notice something consistent about the devil – everywhere that he has free reign and his activity is rampant, you will see massive numbers of lost people, and you will see misery. Right now the center of satan’s influence is in an area of the world called the 10/40 Window, which is essentially the Middle East and the areas to the east and west of that region. In those nations there is poverty, mistreatment of women, unattractive architecture, no flowers, and misery. ( P.100)
17. How to pray against demons, curses, bondage…
These prayers are written out in order to correctly pray in each situation.
Breaking Bondage Prayer: This is appears to be prayed by a Christian who is struggling with demons.
… I address myself only to the true and living God and refuse any involvement of satan in my prayer. Satan, I command you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, to leave my presence with all your demons. I bring the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ between us. I resist all the endeavors of satan and his wicked spirits to rob me of the will of God. I choose to be transformed by the renewing of my mind. I pull down every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ and loose into myself a sound mind, the mind of Christ." (P.108)
Occult Oppression Prayer in which Shirley McClain and wishbones make an appearance.
"Lord, I now confess seeking from satan the help that should come from God. I now confess as sin (name all occult sins) and also those sins I cannot remember. Lord, I now repent and renounce those sins, and ask you to forgive me. I rebuke satan. I count all things of satan as my enemies. In the name of Jesus Christ, I now close the door on all occult practices, and I command all such spirits to leave me in the name of Jesus Christ."
(Here is a very brief list of occult practices, channeling, astral projection, crystals, precognition or fortune telling, telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, ouija board, tarot cards, good luck charms, seances, involvement with Edgar Cayce, Jean Dixon, Shirley McLain, communication with the dead or any spirit of a human being, dead or alive (this is really communication with demons impersonating people) mind control, witchcraft, fourleaf clover, rabbit foot, wishbone, E.S.P., transcendental meditation, hypnosis, mind altering drugs, yoga, incense, dungeons and dragons, pendulum, palm reading, automatic handwriting, horoscopes, signs of zodiac, voodoo, magic, levitation, water witching, tealeaf reading, secret organizations like Freemasons, the worship of or praying to any other that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.) (P.109)
Negative Spiritual and Emotional Ties prayer
"Father, I break and renounce evil spiritual and emotional ties that I have had or may have and with (lodges, adulterers, close friends, husbands, wives, engagements, cults, and binding agreements between buddies). I renounce these evil ties. I break them, and wash them away with the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ." (P.109)
Generational Bondage Prayer (Exodus 20:4-6, 34:7, Numbers 14:18)
(This is a belief that psychic powers and curses can carry down through generations.)
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I now renounce, break and loose myself from all psychic powers, bondages, or bonds of physical or mental illness upon me, my family or family line as the result of parents or any other ancestors. I thank you, Lord, for setting me free." (P. 109)
Loosing of Curses, Spells, Etc. Prayer (Numbers 14:18, James 3:9)
(This is a belief that spirits involved in occult practices can attach themselves to people and continue down through the ages.)
"In the name of Jesus Christ, I now rebuke, break and loose myself and my children from any and all evil curses, charms, vexes, hexes, spells, jinxes, psychic powers, bewitchment, witchcraft, and sorcery that have been put upon me or my family line from any persons or from any occult or psychic sources, and I cancel all connected and related spirits and command them to leave me. I break the power of any negative word that has ever been spoken against me or anyone in my family. I thank you, Lord, for setting me free." (P.109)
Loosing from Domination Prayer (Deuteronomy 23:2, 18:10-12, Galatians 5:20)
(One can be subject to demons that come from living and dead relatives, friends, the UPS guy, etc.)
"In the name of Jesus Christ I now renounce, break and loose myself from all demonic subjection to my parents, grandparents, or any other human beings, living or dead, who have dominated me in any way. I thank you, Lord, for setting me free." (P.110)
Come to Jesus Delivery Prayer (Matthew 18:18, Isaiah 11:2, I Corinthians 4:4, 6:19, 20, I John 4:1)
"In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command satan and all his demons to loose my mind. I ask you Father to send angels to cut and sever all fetters, bands, ties, and bonds, whether they be by word or deed. I now ask the Lord, to loose the Spirits of the Lord, listed in Isaiah 11:2, (the Spirit of the Lord, the Fear of the Lord, Counsel, Might, Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding) into me and my family. I come to you, Jesus, as my deliverer. You know all my needs (name them). I now loose myself from every dark spirit, from every evil influence, from every satanic bondage, from every spirit in me that is not the spirit of God, and I command all such spirits to leave me now in the name of Jesus Christ. I confess that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, redeemed, cleansed, and sanctified by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, satan has no place in me, no power over me, because of the blood of Jesus." (P.111)
There is far more in this document that I have not shared. I ask that your read the entire document in order to get the big picture. There is too much to discuss in a single post. Each of the prayers that we listed could be posts in themselves. Over the next weeks we will be jumping around, looking at a number of the issues raised. We will also be looking at more in this document.
How to ask hard question about statements of belief and practice.
Do not let anyone spoon feed you. You are smart. In spite of the beliefs expressed by COH, you have the Holy Spirit who can guide you in asking questions. One of the best things to do is to ask lots and lots of questions.
1. Miracles, including healing and raising from the dead, are not out of the realm of the routine possibility at COH. Therefore, is the COH congregation made up of people who have a lower morbidity and mortality rate than the surrounding population when adjusted for socioeconomic factors? Has the local news media reported on people being raised from the dead or even being cured from cancer at significantly higher rates than those around them?
2. Why would the leadership not want their people to listen to *super-spiritual* outsiders? What do they mean by the word *super-spiritual?*
3. Is God really a Spirit who is not into theology? Why would Hodges not want people to think about their expressed belief structure from a theological bent? Do the Bible verses quoted really say what they claim is being said?
4. How do they know that presence of the devil *consistently* leads to bad architecture and no flowers?
The document mentioned the 10/40 window which is the Muslim world. As you know, TWW is friendly with Todd Wilhelm who lives in Dubai-part of that 10/40 window. Now, if we apply COH claims, shouldn't we see bad architecture and no flowers in Dubai?
On the other hand, one would also assume that the Church of the Highlands presence in Birmingham would result in a city comprised of glorious architecture, right? Is it? Please refer to the pictures up top. COH's contention does not compute.
Birmingham has a nice Arboretum. But, again look above, so does Dubai. I have been to downtown Birmingham. In my opinion, looking at pictures, Dubai is more beautiful city.
Finally, when I took a break for lunch, I looked at my news feed. Today it featured the top 10 most dangerous cities in the United States. Unfortunately, Birmingham came in at #8. It appears that COH is falling down on the job if one is to believe their *not really theology* theology
8. Birmingham, Alabama
Violent Crime Rate: 1,345 per 100,000 people
Murder Rate: 30 per 100,000 people
Population Below Poverty Line: 28.9%
Last Year's Rank: 6
In other words, things just don't add up for me. But then again, I am probably one of those super-spiritual people that COH warns you about.
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 20:1-22:24 Matthew 7:15-29 Psalm 9:1-12 Proverbs 2:16-22