36. Beware Charismatic leaders who prove to be Charismaniacs!
Case History II - 'Pastor' Roger Wheelhouse
Leaders have always sprung up from within congregations of true worshippers (John 4:24) and have proven to be the wolves in sheep's clothing that we were warned about (Matthew 7:15-23; Acts 20:27-30). So many today are looking to "charismatic" leaders - someone with a presence and vitality about their ministry that seems attractive to the casual Christian or the backslider, if not the non-believer who may come into the church off the street, or be found in the building because of a rare attendance at a funeral, marriage, or "baby sprinkling." Are these people really looking for the man of God, or is the object of their attention, admiration, adoration, and even worship, the man on a pedestal? How can we tell when the personality cult has begun and the worship of the One True God of Israel is taking second place to the reverence of the man or woman at the front? We have so many cults in the world today and most of them began in exactly this way. Even in churches that remain ostensibly orthodox the personality cult can be seen when a "charismatic" leader departs from a church that has grown in leaps and bounds under his ministry. As soon as he departs for another venue or ministry the congregation begins to drift away and soon becomes as small, or smaller, than when it first began. Often the original faithful congregation breathes a sigh of relief that the "holy huddle," that trails after the man on the pedestal, has gone with him (they often follow the cult leader to his next destination, uprooting their families to follow their "star"). Such behaviour is a sure sign of immaturity and is witnessed in the severe loss felt by such adherents who grieve and shed more tears over the departed hero than for the lost sinful world that the Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life to save.
What are the signs that you have such a leader in your church. Sadly, they are simple to spot but it takes a strong Biblically based leadership supported by mature Christians to discern the pseudo-Messiah and his plans. He arrives in the church and begins to set up members against each other by simple means - often just by the use of gossip. Share a confidence with him and he will shortly have used it against you in some form. Is there some one in the congregation that you haven't got along with for some time? As soon as he knows it he will approach the other person and share the information with them. The more mature believer who hears this gossip will often go to the first party and deal with the problem they may have between themselves. But Satan is relying on one, or both, parties being immature so the wound will fester and divide the flock.
Are there any old wounds concerning a large part of the congregation that are revealed to the new leader? Did the church form from the uniting of two or more congregations in the past? As soon as he knows this he has a weapon to use whenever things don't go the way he wants to manipulate them. Thus the problem is always with the congregation - collective guilt is used to manipulate and dispirit the flock, for Satan is adept at using man's guilt at his own regular failings to divide a fellowship. We should keep our eyes set on Jesus, 'the author and perfecter of our faith' (Hebrews 12:2), but while we are distracted Satan continues to divide by using his man to cause the sheep to begin absenting themselves from prayer meetings - the powerhouse of the church. When he has sufficiently cowed those in leadership with him he can begin to open up with more blatant attacks on the prayer life - such as telling believers that seeing them pray with their eyes shut "makes him want to spew," ostensibly because this is not Biblical. In the meantime our Charismatic leader arrives in the pulpit when he knows the church will be packed, wearing the most ostentatious garb he is permitted to wear. If he was in Rome he would be drooling at the thought of the (un-Scriptural) regalia, but he has to suffice with the nearest he can get to such dream items - even if it is a little dog-collar. Since he cannot bear to share 'the limelight' with anyone else he has to damage the body ministry.
Again he uses 'humour' to cause hurt and to subjugate his flock and to bring attention to himself. In this Case History II a young Christian was being introduced into the membership of Calvary Baptist Church, Cowbridge Road East, in the morning meeting. 'Pastor' Roger Wheelhouse had just spoken on Pharisaism and how these men loved to be seen and make a show of themselves. He then called for the prospective new members to come to the front of the church to be welcomed into the fellowship. As the young woman made her way to the front down the centre aisle, Roger declared, 'Here comes Taran, making an entrance down the centre of the church - just like a Pharisee!' Then, perhaps realising the stupidity of this statement, he tried to cover up: 'Oh, that was a cruel thing to say! I wouldn't say something like that, would I? I'm not cruel - am I?' Well, does the Bible declare (James 3:5-8) :
So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.
Yes, we can all make mistakes, but incidents like this became regular as Wheelhouse regularly insulted and humiliated members of the congregation - often in public. It quickly reached the point where our single elder, Roy James, retired earlier than anyone expected. Rather than the church pressing on to confirm a new and considerably sized eldership to match the size of the congregation, Wheelhouse began to back-peddle on the elections and was inferring that women elders might be installed in the future. His sermons continued to dishonour God and use the Word of God disparagingly - and his 'performances' in the pulpit were histrionic in proportion to the occasion and the audience present. It was particularly noticeable that he became more animated when discussing the 'Toronto Experience' (or Pensacola, Brownsville or Sunderland) and his prancing, posturing performances had to be seen to be believed. We needed to consult the deacons concerning these things, since they were the only 'officials' in constant liaison with Wheelhouse, and we met with a small group of them in a private house. We were reassured that they were not going to allow Wheelhouse to have his own way and that there was certainly no possibility of women elders being appointed. We decided to give them sufficient time to take action and waited, patiently, for over a year. We noticed little difference to the pulpit posturing and, in the background, Satan was using Wheelhouse to wreak havoc in the fellowship in his many disguises as a (self-proclaimed) 'prophetically anointed evangelist/pastor/teacher'.
More than a year after this meeting with the deacons my family attended the funeral of the mother of another dear friend in the church when one of the mourners approached us. She was another long-standing member of the church who was rightly held in great affection by the fellowship and full of loving commitment to the ministries of the church. She was clearly in a state of distress and quickly blurted out to us, 'I'm sorry I haven't seen you in the church recently. I've been fellowshipping at the church my brother attends. Roger accused me of being responsible for Ted Morgan's death. I'm thinking of joining this fellowship (the church where the funeral service was held).' Abruptly saying farewell, she departed before we had time to murmur more than a greeting and a goodbye. Almost in shock at the implications, we wondered how much longer we could keep quiet about the appalling 'shepherding' being foisted on our family fellowship. Ted Morgan was a 'depressive' who had been baptised in our church and had subsequently committed suicide. Most members would not know that our sister, Frances, had been so concerned at the lack of pastoral care for Ted that she went out of her way to try and encourage Roger to spend more time with him. When, from her own experience and training, she observed that Ted was not getting the help he needed she contacted the Reverend Peter Manson, the Baptist Union Secretary for South Wales, to enquire after the experience and abilities of the pastor as she was sure that the shepherding was inadequate. No doubt this enquiry was a 'red rag to a bull' to Roger who was quick to try and pin Ted's suicide on our sister, even under the cover of statements directed at her during the funeral service! Again, like 'Rev' Kevin Tugwell, this fulfils the pattern of always finding others to blame when things go wrong. Most of this is done covertly. I will return to this point later.
37. Beware the danger of ignoring the gifts of the Spirit
So many painful occurrences of this kind were apparent and yet still nothing was being done by the leadership. Our prayers for the church had been answered more than a year earlier [Wednesday, 1st October 1997] whilst praying and fasting, when God gave my wife, Zoë, a 'word' regarding the church. As usual Zoë gave this to mature Christians who we have always used to check out such things. They agreed that the interpretation was clear. But how should it be presented to the church when the 'leadership' had clearly shown no desire or ability to see the truth revealed by prophetic visions? This 'word' was typed out and given to the leadership of Calvary Baptist Church in Cardiff:
"When I call My people back to Myself they will come with a fearful heart, for I Am an all consuming fire. My people will stand in awe of Me for I Am a Holy God.
I stretch down My hands in love because of My precious Son - He who intercedes on your behalf. My Son who loves you passionately, for you are His Bride.
He will wash your filthy gown in His Precious Blood and it will be whiter than snow. He will present you without stain or wrinkle for I Am a Holy God. In My Presence you will find fullness of joy!
When My people return to Me they will possess a grieving and repentant heart. Tears will flow as they recognise their many sins. I Am a God who will not be mocked. I hate the compromise of My Word. It is adultery with the world and a stench to My nostrils.
In fear and trembling My people will come to Me. And over them all will be the strong banner of My Son's love . He poured out His life for those He loved - His Precious Bride. My Son, Precious to Me, Precious to those who believe in Him and love Him.
May my people respond to the love of My Beloved Son; love him passionately, earnestly, expectantly, honestly - as a Bride loves her Bridegroom. Listen to His voice, He is bidding His Bride, "Come."
My people, put away all selfish desires, all thoughts of malice and revenge, all hypocrisy and pride, put away your doubts and unbelief and believe in My Son. The One who is trustworthy. No more lying or sexual perversion.
I and My Son are One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and love your neighbour as yourself."
These are strong and unambiguous words. Check them out by the tests outlined earlier and the known state of the church, which will be revealed more fully as this history is expounded. The historical period that Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied in experienced the same kind of deception that is being repeated today. The true prophet points the people back to the Word, while the false prophet turns out hype and false prediction. True prophets warn of judgement and stress repentance and the authority of scripture, while the false stress triumphalism, and 'words from the Lord' which are not from Him at all. As shown earlier (Section 29), and as Scripture predicted, God's people have neglected the grain and eaten the straw (Jeremiah 23:28) and are incapable of recognising when a prophecy is from God, Satan, or the 'vain imagination' of men.
Another problem is that much of the church today does not believe that it could possibly be described to be in this state and we often hear church members praying the Pharisaical prayer of Luke 18:9-14: "Thank you, Lord, that we are not like that church down the road." I believe these words could have been given to many churches in Britain, but the church in this country is predominantly too proud to listen. The trouble is we all tend to think that God is saying this about the church down the road - not us! This message was given to the leaders of Calvary Baptist Church at a time when they requested the members to pray to 'know the way forward,' but no comment was ever passed on it. When nothing was said or done about this word we wondered seriously how we could encourage the church to take the situation seriously. We will see later whether this prophetic vision is true by the actions of the fellowship to which they were delivered.
In September, 1998, I visited King's Church, Newport, and listened to the morning service in response to a request from a brother who was concerned for his relatives who were swallowing the Word-Faith heresies presented at this church by 'Pastor' Ray Bevin. He was berating his flock because of the problems caused by his un-Scriptural separation from his wife. This was very sad to witness but no worse than Wheelhouse's abuse, and I attended Calvary Baptist Church that evening. On the following Monday, Zoë received a 'phone call from Roger Wheelhouse. The conversation was bizarre. He had never 'phoned in the middle of the day in this fashion before, and really had no reason to call on this occasion either. But it soon became clear that the agenda was to share some destructive 'gossip.' According to Roger a member of the fellowship had told him that my absence that Sunday was because I "could not bear to be in Calvary Baptist Church at anytime." This was untrue - despite the Scriptural problems and heresy in the church, and the foolish ecumenism of the Baptist Union, and I also knew that Zoë was not yet ready to leave.
On the following Sunday I spoke to Roger privately and told him that I didn't want him speaking to Zoë alone again and upsetting her in this manner. He feigned embarrassment about the incident and, although I didn't ask, quickly revealed who had given him this 'information.' As with Kevin Tugwell's deception, gossip was a handy weapon to be used to try and unsettle and undermine relationships within the church. Roger claimed that deacon Neil Jones had shared this with him and I asked why he would say something like this. I fed Wheelhouse a few lines to see where he would go with his attempts to excuse himself and he promptly claimed that, 'Neil must have 'a residue' of his old pagan life remaining and a lack of sanctification in this area.' This was very like Kevin Tugwell. Someone else is always at fault - it is never the ego-tripping leader in error. Sharing in love to bring forgiveness and reconciliation is very different from spreading malicious gossip! Blaming others is not the work of a pastor of any ilk. To save my friend Neil from hurt concerning this incident I chose not to share this with him at the time but mentioned the incident in the letter to Wheelhouse to emphasise one his ploys. I finished this conversation by promising Roger that I would let him know problems I had with his ministry.
Since Wheelhouse was in error doctrinally and behaviourally, we considered directly requesting a special session during the next church meeting in order to discuss the many issues that had arisen from his ministry, but we could not seriously see anyone sitting through an extensive reading of Roger's sermons, or listening to the tapes of his messages again. My first draft letter dealt with the sermons alone, but Zoë pointed out to me that few people would see anything unusual in them, since they had already sat through them without expressing any concern about the content, and few would see anything wrong even by reading through them again. Zoë therefore helped frame the questions and comments in boxes (now appearing in the right-hand margin) which were added before the letter was posted to Roger Wheelhouse, as dated.
A typical Wheelhouse answer to questions concerning his doctrine occurred when he mentioned the possibility of women elders, in 1997, and I asked him if he believed that this was a Scriptural principle. His reply: "I was at Bible college with many women who felt that God had called them to leadership in churches. How can you tell them that they are wrong and that they haven't been called?" Very simply - because our authority is the Bible and nowhere in Scripture are women elders/pastors mentioned - there is not one verse to support the idea! And there is the clear Scriptural teaching that no woman is allowed to teach or have authority over a man - 1 Timothy 2v11:
Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. 15 But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.
This obviously makes it impossible for any woman pastor to speak or pastor to mixed congregations! This proved again that Roger clearly believes in "the authority of experience" rather than the Biblical & apostolic "experience of authority" (where the authority of the Bible overrules all and lays down the principles for all decisions in life). So what would be the point of going to Roger and discussing other errors in his ministry - it merely allows him the time to cover up or scheme to cause your removal?
As mentioned earlier, in the summer of 1997, we had spoken to several deacons about our concerns for the church and particularly Roger Wheelhouse's indications that we he was going to consider the question of women elders. We had been given assurances that Roger would not be allowed to install un-Scriptural elders and we had remained in the church while his deceptions gathered pace. Now he preached a series of sermons of debatable content, including one questioning the rôle of elders in the church and based on another heretics book and noticeably emphasising how elders are 'worthy of double pay'! His agenda was clearly unabated and, despite warnings which some of the deacons claimed to have administered, he was still unrepentant and following his own program, and therefore in the Benny Hinn camp, having chosen to ignore the full teaching of Matthew 18:15-17 and Luke 17:3.
38. Beware those who try to hide the truth (Acts 26:26)
We had told some of the deacons that we were writing a letter to the church about our concerns for the ministry of the Wheelhouse's and we received some advice from several deacons as to who we should not contact, since the elderly and infirm had little knowledge of what had been going on in Calvary, so these people were omitted from the mailing. The deacons did not see the letter before we posted it, but we were reliant on the Post Office for delivery and this was bound to be variable depending on factors outside of our control. Note that, in this respect, the church would have received the details at the same time, or as close as was possible, and therefore the effect was going to be as if we were reading the details out in a meeting. As you will see later, it is highly unlikely that we would have got past page one, if we had read this 'live,' because we would have been shouted down - and this was another powerful reason for writing to the whole church! I will deal later with the one Scripture, Matthew 18:15-17, which some seem to think nullifies the writing of such a letter. We included this covering letter to the church members:
3rd December 1998
please excuse this blanket letter which we are sending to you with a copy of the letter which we have posted to Roger Wheelhouse today.
We are sure that you will read the material very carefully and most of you will probably agree with some of it. But some of you will disagree with much, if not all, of it.
We ask that you consider the evidence very prayerfully while devoting time to fasting. It is absolutely crucial that Calvary Baptist Church considers the evidence and allows the Lord - and not your own emotions - to impart the truth about the deceptions that have been perpetrated in His name.
It will be very hard for some to admit that they have been deceived by this man since many of us actually sat under his ministry and listened to these words being spoken without hearing or recognising the deception. Some of you may even be convinced that the errors are not serious! If this is so then we ask that you read the many Scripture references carefully and allow the Lord to impart His clear interpretation which will not be in any way ambiguous.
Scripture is clear that we are "not to despise prophetic utterances, but bring all things to the test - to make sure of all things." (1 Thess. 5v19-21) We are certain that the contradictions in Roger's ministry must be apparent to many - but it may be more of a shock to actually consider that a man, who has even spoken on satanic deception, should be involved in the same himself!
In answer to this we would ask you to consider this possibly astonishing fact: if you compare the Wheelhouse ministry with a cult, such as the Mormons, it is almost certain that you could have gone into any one of their meetings in Cardiff in the last two years and have heard more of the Word of God and come away less grieved - and been treated more lovingly - than under this regime! Having been in this cult we believe that this says everything.
Finally, we expect you are fully aware of the rulings to call an extraordinary church meeting. It requires 10% of the membership to write to the Church Secretary to request the meeting we need for this disciplinary matter to be dealt with quickly. This equates to about 15 members and, unless it is done rapidly, we have the prospect of this hypocritical ministry grieving the Holy Spirit through our blessed celebrations of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The matter lies in the hands of the fellowship of Calvary Baptist Church and we pray that the unity in the Spirit will now be displayed as the body ministry (Ephesians 4; Romans 12; 1 Corinthians. 12) unites in prayer and fasting in the name of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.