Brian Zahnd is my former pastor. My father grew up in King City, Missouri and Brian is from Savannah. I spend several years at Word of Life Church in Saint Joseph, Missouri. The pastor I remember was up to his eyeballs in the word of faith movement and the focus was completely focused on “faith, life, victory.” The Church was basically the local version of Victory Christian Center (Billy Joe Daugherty’s church). In fact, Victory’s long time youth pastor came from Word of Life.
Faith was everything at the church. Brian proclaimed often that Acts 16:5 was his key for ministry. He believed that the preaching of faith was critical to the growth of the church. His testimony was “God said to preach faith and the church will grow.” He was amazing at doing two things: preaching faith and doing altar calls. He could not do alot of things in ministry but these he did very, very well.
I look back at many of the services and realize that God did some amazing things. I was there where people like Steve Hage, Jesse Duplantis, and Eastman Curtis came to do ministry. Lives were forever changed in those meetings. It was not just having church, it was about expanding the Kingdom.
Brian Zahnd departs from faith
I do not mean that he lost his salvation or he is a heretic. I am not willing to make that call. What I am willing to say is that he did leave the faith message behind. In his words, “I am packing my bags and leaving the Charismatic movement.” His emphasis on faith became an emphasis on the desert fathers that had mostly views of catholicism. He has a special place in his heart for St. Augustine of Hippo. I am not saying that we should not study history (we should and I encourage it) I am saying things changed.
Word of Life Church saw about a third of the membership leave for other churches. The reason was spiritual. God said to Brian (his own account) that if he preach faith, the church would grow. Now, that he was not preaching faith, it is only natural to assume that he was not doing what God had told him to do. People need faith, not history lessons.
I have been gone from Saint Joseph for many years and when I am in town, I preach in smaller Pentecostal churches. I have not been to Word of Life Church for many years but I do follow them from a distance. I have watch the transformation of the messages from the pulpit and I must say I am surprised at it.
This is a trend that I see with friends in ministry that are dabbling in the writings of NT Wright. I have read his books but it was not anything that I would throw out centuries of revelation and prophetic understanding to embrace. Wright has some good things to say but pastors changing their whole doctrinal statement and focus the Holy Spirit has given them is too much.
Brian Zahnd misses something about history
He loves history. He always has. He used it often in preaching faith. I do not question his study of the history of the church one bit. He probably knows it better than most professors do to be honest.
However, I think he misses something very important: Church history is not the study of names and events but it is the study of mantles and mandates. When we understand this truth, it changes everything that we need see and know about that great cloud of witnesses.
When we realize there is power in the stories; the power of the testimony; then we can respond with our heart positioned to cry, “If you are still God, you can still do it!” History should create in us a desire to see what they saw in our lives in our day in our culture. It is doesn’t, we missed the point of church history.
I find it hard to read the stories of men like Count Zinzendorf, William Seymour and TL Osborn and not be inspired to see what they saw in my life, in my city and through my ministry. It is hard to read it as mere facts. Church history is living and in for us to receive as an impartation. I truly believe in the words that I cried so many times on the floor in Toronto, “There MUST be More!”
Zahnd is still my brother
Even if I am a strong Pentecostal with an emphasis on faith and he does not, he is still my brother and I would still share communion with him as part of the brethen in Christ. Relationship is based on blood (of Jesus), not common agreement to doctrinal truth. When we rally to doctrines, we form demoninations. When we rally to the blood, we form the Kingdom of God. Personally, I am far more concerned about the Kingdom of God in and through our lives than I am about being part of a “corporate fellowship” that is more dogmatic about a position that dynamic about the gospel of the Kingdom.
We have to be careful to not make theological differences more important than being a brother or sister in Christ. I might not attend Word of Life again (over doctrine) but that does not mean I would not welcome them as my siblings in the Lord. Jesus said whoever believes in Him is my brother and sister in the Lord.
It is impossible for God to raise up fathers in the faith and spiritual sons and daughters when we determine our relationship based on theological statements. I am not sure what we are doing with 1 Corinthians 4:15? Where is the spiritual fathers and mothers that relate to in love, not doctrine? They are few and far between.