How the mighty fell
In this essay I intend to sketch out a number of ideas regarding the fall of powerful Christians.
I will examine the issues and look to both Bible text and the social sciences for explanations. It is my intention to draw from these wreckages lessons that might be applied to ones own life to avoid such a fall from grace. I will use a number of case studies including the famous and the relatively unknown. I will attempt to draw parallels and identify similarities.
There have in recent times been a number of stories of great and not so great men and women. These men and women are visionaries, movers and shakers with great insight and the a passion for the revival of wisdom, knowledge and purity.
These great ones call the Church to life, create waves and make a difference for good to the lives of all they touch.
But, for some, when they are highest the touch of life becomes the snare of death.
What went wrong? Something has clearly occurred but that something was not good.
My suggestion is that these (once great) leaders of men were once indeed spokesmen for the almighty (if indeed you believe in such) but somewhere along the path, to change and improvement, they fell.
Is this normal?
Case Study #1 - The original fall.
The Bible tells (through prophecy) of an event that is generally believed to be before mankind was on the earth messing up things and being generally selfish. This event was a fall from grace. The story goes that in the spirit realm there was a being of pure music. He was the highest ranked of all God's creatures and was charged with "covering the throne with glory". In effect he was the embodiment of music, leading music and singing.
The story goes on to say that he became proud and desired the throne he served for himself.
This site: http://users.aristotle.net/~bhuie/satan.htm gives a large portion of time to discussing this topic and is a good in depth read for those that are interested in that sort of thing.
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
"I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High."
But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit...
Bible: Book of Isaiah Chapter 14 verses 12–15, Translation: NIV
This passage, spoken by the prophet Isaiah, is widely considered to address the judgement of God on the devil. There is some debate as to whether this casting down happened or will happen but that is beyond the remit of this essay.
The fallen one was one of the Morning Stars (probably two) and was constantly bathed in the glory of another.
Isaiah clearly indicates that Pride alone was the reason for this fall.
Case Study #2 - The Exorcist of Woodgreen.
This case study happen in modern day England and was the subject of two BBC documentaries.
If you pay careful attention to the footage, (if you get a chance to see it), you will see my dad among the number of these rather odd Christians.
I myself have visited the houses where many of these people lived in community and have witnessed the glory days to the final end as a well placed observer.
The story centres around a man call Paddy Shevlin.
According to Paddy's own story he was once a rich and successful businessman.
He earned far more than he could spend and met the Cray Brothers briefly once or twice.
Reggy and Ronny Cray are famous London gangsters that ruled the East End for years. There is a film about these men if you are interested called "The Crays"
Paddy was, however, a deeply unhappy man. Life was empty and tasteless for him and he burned himself up living a lifestyle that failed to satisfy. He was slowly destroying his marriage, his health and his relationship with his children.
Then Paddy found God.
I will try to relay the story as I heard it from the man.
He had entered a church where for some reason people seemed to fall to floor sometimes when they were prayed for.
He said "you can't do that to me" and immediately was slammed to the floor though no-one touched him.
If I remember the story correctly he them went to the front of the church where he spent a long time stuck to the floor.
When he stood up again he was a changed man.
His perspective on life was altered and he knew that business was no longer for him.
He sold his share of the business for £1 to his secretary because his partners didn't believe him when he made them the same offer.
I am unsure of the time scale that follows but my Dad met Paddy sometime after this.
Paddy invited my dad back to London where he moved into a large house that paddy owned. Under the ministries of Paddy and the Elders of Eastside Christian Fellowship in Woodgreen London my dad began to deal with a few issues.
Paddy and church would travel in a beaten up minibus to locations such as Lester Square and Hyde Park (with it's famous preachers corner). When they arrived they would preach to the masses. They were bold, they were in-your-face and there was no compromise.
Strangely (given all the preaching) the people that Paddy would help were the homeless, the drunks and the other scruffy, messed up minions of the gutters of London.
At this time they were affiliated with a church of some reasonably large size although I do not know the details I did get to attend the parent church once back when I was about 13 or 14 years old.
Paddy told once of a time when a homeless man that was well known to the little house church that had asked Paddy to be taken back to the house. Paddy said "no" as the house would already be full.
That night was bitter cold
and the man never made it to morning.
From that time on Paddy swore he would turn no-one away.
Eastside had a wild reputation as their mandate, they felt, was to cast out demons and release all that were oppressed of the devil.
"How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him."
-- Bible: Book of the Acts of the Apostles. Chapter 10 Verse 38. Translation: NKJV
Whatever can be said about the people, on my visits to them they helped me in a number of ways. Not least that I was able to start rebuilding my relationship with my dad.
However it did not last.
Paddy and Eastside moved to Margate in Kent were they purchased a number of houses and finally a hotel.
At first this was good. I was able to skive my games lesson and come to visit the house where a cup of tea or coffee and the occasional cake was to be had.
I was free to come and go from the house and help myself as I pleased. Once I was even asked to take part in the election of a new elder (house leader) in an open free vote not so dissimilar to the way a new pope is selected.
Most times there would be some-one to play chess with and as a keen chess-club member that was always a good thing.
A lot of chess was played at Eastside and Paddy was widely held to be the grand master of the chess board.
I once won money from the Paddy after he goaded me into laying a bet on the out come of our game. This money I knew would pay for a planed visit to the movies the next day. As far as I was concerned it was God's own provision for a penniless bind I had gotten myself into.
Paddy was well annoyed that I would not let him have another game to redeem his money...
But what of the homeless and the weekly deliverance services? Paddy and Eastside moved to the massive old hotel building they had purchased. I rarely had a chance to visit but looking back I could feel deep down that the old magic was gone.
There were complaints from sources such as my dad that Paddy was not answerable to any one and that he would not listen to his elders who had issues of disagreement with him.
In short things were becoming bitter and full of recrimination
Members were accused of disloyalty, pride and other sins, and generally said to be acting out the will of the devil. We call this paranoia.
My dad left Eastside Christian Fellowship and returned to live in London. He often has said that leaving London (where they made a difference) was a mistake.
Under the tension of this discord the church fell apart and it's key members left one by one.
Paddy was caught driving without valid car tax and was annoyed that the officer (a Christian man) had given him a ticket.
It seemed that Paddy felt that somehow Christians were exempt from the laws of the land.
I have no idea where paddy is now but Eastside Fellowship is no more.
Analysis 1 - Common patterns
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
Bible: Book of John Chapter 15 verse 5. Translation: NKJV
It seems to me that there is same pattern to all the case studies I can find.
The pattern is:
- Humble beginnings
- Growth / increased
- Pride resulting in disunity
- Self Direction
With the Morning Star, (Satan, devil, the man in red... call him as you feel most comfortable), the Humble beginning is that he was created. He's Gifted with powers and authority and his position was increased to the highest place (the throne). Then he became proud, rebelled (under his own direction) and then fell
For Paddy it was the same. He started broken and laying on the floor. He was gifted with insight and a ministry that took lifetime homeless, often mentally or psychologically unable and made them citizens again. His church grew. He thought he was someone important, a head of a large organisation. At some point he started to move under his own direction and by the time they had the hotel there was disunity within the group. Finally the group fell apart.
"You will save the humble people; but Your eyes are on the haughty, that You may bring them down."
Bible: Second Book of Samuel Chapter 22 verse 28. Translation: NKJV
Case Study #3 - The first King of Israel.
The next case study comes from the old testament of the Bible and as such also from Jewish history.
This time period directly precedes what is widely regarded as the golden age of Israel which is the time from the beginning of the reign of David to the end of the reign of Solomon, his son.
At this stage in events the House of Jesse (Davids dad) is a reasonable enterprise and the Jewish people have been without a king since the beginning. Instead they are presided over by the priesthood that keep an eye on the general laws, the Prophets that keep the message of God in front of the people and the Judges that arbitrate disputes in the name of God.
The people have started to feel a little funny.
They want a King because every one else has a King.
The King is selected by the leading Prophet of the times and the King is called Saul. It is noted that he was a strong and good looking young man that stood head and shoulders above his kin (he was tall and physical looking king that would look good in battle).
For a time Saul did exactly as instructed by God, The prophets and any judges he happened to consult.
Eventually however Saul began to think himself important. He had clearly forgotten that it was not Saul that put Saul on the throne and he could easily be removed from it again.
Saul disobeyed a direct instruction to not keep any of the Cattle from the city they had beaten in battle.
Saul made excuses. He refused to admit he was in any way wrong.
Gradually things went sour and although Saul continued to rule the "magic" was gone. Eventually he began to suffer from a form of what we would call depression. The texts record: "he was troubled by an unclean spirit".
The story goes on to show how he tried to kill the selected successor and how this man (David of the house of Jesse) humiliated Saul by showing him mercy. This after Saul had declared David to be a criminal and driven him into the hills to live in the caves.
Eventually Saul died in battle.
By the time David was fully crowned King the only living relative of Saul was a "worthless Cripple".
For the sake of the friendship David had had with the fallen family he placed this cripple at his own table and allowed him to live in his own home the rest of his days.
This broke several taboo's and traditions of Kings for the area.
The golden age of Israel began.
Here we see once more the classic pattern: Humble beginnings, a gift (The Crown), Growth (of personal power), Pride in his own authority, Self direction and a sad end to a good story.
Case Study #4 - The "King" at Kings.
So far we have looked at a number of case studies and looked heavily to the bible and big events and big falls. In this next case study I want to look at a small fall that many would not notice. I intend to examine the details to see if they fit with the pattern so far identified.
What does this God of the Christians require of his people anyway?
To speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.
-- Bible: Book of Titus Chapter 3 verse 2. Translation: NKJV
This is not what our once mighty men of God have been doing. After the pride has come: hard words, delusions, divisiveness and all manor of discord and disunity.
The second book of Corinthians says (in chapter 3 verse 17): "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty". Another word for liberty is freedom (with the idea of it being without burden and with a fullness of peace).
Furthermore, it says in the Bible that "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Book of John Chapter 13 verse 35). I am told that the Greek word we translate simply as love means much more including the idea of: self sacrifice, unity, deep caring for, interest in the well being of and a selfless pursuit of the benefit of the loved one. Therefore if a person calls himself a Christian but does not exhibit these evidences they are perhaps not a disciple of Jesus. If they are not a disciple of Jesus it is not really appropriate to call them a Christian.
Now on with the case study.
Once more I was there until near the end and can give first hand account of what went on.
However the story starts not with me at 13 years old but at birth.
A few couples were meeting to have church with each other in their homes
Primarily these couples consisted of my own mum and dad and Mr and Mrs Skelton.
Back then Mike Skelton and my dad got on very well. My dad is an easy going character but has the temperament of an artist which means that he is easily hurt and can feel it quite deeply. This fact will be important later as this story is told. It also helps to explain how my dad later ended up on a BBC documentary. (see case study #2)
This little house church grew into a closely knit community and it was clear that Mike Skelton was the man with the gift of teaching. He was made paster of the church and preached each Sunday.
We grew and rented a small disused church. We called ourselves Faith Christian Fellowship which reflected our affiliation to that organisation.
During that time there was a magic of truth and wonderment for a little boy that would grow up to be me.
We were encouraged to remember verses from the bible and were rewarded for simple things like colouring a picture and joining in.
The youth leaders of the time fully believed in what they called the power of confession and they would get us kids to recite positive things about ourselves. In this way they were able to inset a sense of self worth within us and this sense of worth has carried me through hell on earth and kept me going when all seemed lost so that over 20 years later I am still sane.
We were taught how respecting our parents and owning up when we did wrong were good deeds. In short they installed moral values that have carried me through to the day I come to write all this down.
At the time I remember that Mike Skelton preached a sermon entitled "Cinderella's Shoes". I remember the title and the opening as clear to day as when it happened. I was sitting slightly left of centre in the middle block of chairs about a third of the way back from the front.
Mike said that it was as if he was wearing the wrong shoes just like the ugly sisters and that the role of paster was not for him. One day soon he would have to move on.
I remember thinking "oh no!" and not wanting that to happen. Although later, when I grew up, I would be impatient for him to go.
The church grew and we took to using a school hall to meet in.
I have massively fond memories of that school, the great times as part of a large youth group and the massive wedding reception that was held there.
We grew some more and purchased The Kings Theatre in Ramsgate town centre
Around this time my parents marriage fell apart. They had been going through a tough time for ages and to be honest Mike was right about not being cut out for pastoral work. He was a teacher (a good one) but not so good at the care side of things and so, lacking the support they needed the finally separated.
Leaders have difficulty with devoice and separation and the tendency is toward judgement.
My dad never returned to the church he helped set up
We moved temporarily to a small church that met in a tiny hall and headed up by an old guy with massive personality and a genuine niceness about him. This guy was called Eddy. He's still really nice but his church is bigger.
When we returned to the first church it had moved into the Kings Theatre and was now called "The Kings Fellowship". Our strong affiliation with FCF was no longer a badge of pride.
I grew up in the Kings and it grew too reaching 300 people at one point.
As I grew older I became ever more dissatisfied with the staling platitudes they served.
I went through a period of skiving the service, at which point my mother realised that forcing me to go was not going to work and stopped.
The youth group grew, shrank and grew again.
A new leader was given to us and his name was Micheal Andrea.
He was full of life, passionate for God and the power of prophetic Song seemed to be with him.
He took it to himself to be my "mentor" and promised he would not be like many others and abandon me. That was a shock as I had told no one that I felt different role models rose up only to leave, fail or be moved.
As I left behind the years of college and approached the age of 20 lots of things happened but key among them are these: Mr Andrea claimed that we were all answerable to the authority of Mike Skelton and that obedience to his will was obedience to Gods.
This seemed wrong to me.
This attitude was prevalent across the whole church. People had a yearning they could not explain to leave. My mother and sisters left for New Life Christian Fellowship (that small church again now bigger somewhat). My mother had a theory about "kings": "As the Shepperd - so the sheep". She felt that Mike knew in his heart he should leave but was staying for some reason. As a result everyone else felt they should leave.
As theories go it was quite wacky until you remember that Mike had known he should leave for the last 12 to 15 years. That's a long time to hold on to something God has been saying to let go of.
Mike had become a comically absurd parody of the American-style preachers of faith and prosperity that he idealised so much. He had developed a ridiculous accent and was an unapproachable tyrant in the eyes of many.
I remembered, each time I saw him, his sermon from all those years ago and wished he'd leave thus healing the rifts I saw forming. Some long-time members said they would not return until every Skelton was removed from office within the church. There was talk of creating a petition to the effect and presenting it to the governors of the church.
This strange idea of the immutable authority of the leader that was direct from God and then delegated to all those under the leader has already led to something we call the reformation but it was alive and well at Kings Fellowship.
The final straw came at the beginning of a rocky time in my life. I wished to get married and yet Mr Andrea was only able to offer offencive warnings that it's not all about sex.
Mike Skelton wished to see me in his office to discuss my plans to marry. It all seemed normal until he came out and said "What makes you think you can make a marriage work when your parents failed?"
I do not believe I said another word to the man and years later still have nothing to say to him.
When I left the building it was for the very last time.
However I have plenty of contacts and the story of this fall continues. Mike eventually left to move on to other things. His son Aaron became paster and and in the process the church dwindled to a handful of faithful attendees.
This is not a full fall from grace but I feel it is a small fall and the fall-out is similar.
Mike started small, he had a gift (teaching) and an apparent mandate (to found a church that would be a "lighthouse"), there was growth (lots) and with that growth came pride that he had done this. The self direction lasted 12 to 15 years and the results broke the lives of many and hurt many more. The result also hurt many of my friends who have, as a result, sworn off Christianity for life.
The fall is the shame that must go with the collapse of a large church (that many feel he never left as he left his son in charge).
Analysis 2 - Warning Bells
In my first analysis I concluded that there was a pattern. Since the first analysis I have looked further at the pattern and refined it slightly.
The pattern is:
- Humble beginnings
- Gifting, Growth & Authority
- Pride resulting in disunity
- Self Direction
- Fall: Destruction, humiliation and loss.
Ostensibly it is the same as before.
However there is a problem with this pattern it is clearest with the benefit of hindsight and is of little use while you are in the midst of it.
So in this analysis I aim to look at some of the common signs that can be experienced.
CLUE #1 - Unquestionable authority.
The devil claimed he was right in his quest for the throne.
Saul felt he knew better than God. He felt he had an absolute right to rule and do as he wished.
Paddy Shevlin claimed his authority was not to be questioned.
Mike Skelton claimed his authority was divine and unquestionable too.
This is directly in conflict with the Bible all these men say they followed. In the second book of Corinthians in chapter 3 and verse 5 (NKJV) it says: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God".
That verse says to me that Christians believe that they are nothing and if, by chance, they find themselves with any power it's God's power and not their own. This is backed up by the passage in the gospel of John chapter 15 verse 5 (NKJV): "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."
Also I read that in the book of proverbs it is written in chapter 11 and verse 2 (NKJV): "When pride comes, then comes shame; but with the humble is wisdom."
This verse is born out in each of the four case studies so far.
CLUE #2 - Thinks himself/herself to be something important.
"For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.'"
-- Bible: Book of Isaiah Chapter 57 verse 15. Translation: NKJV
I understand from those better trained than I that the book of second Timothy is a good source of instructions for identifying a good leader.
Indeed it says in chapter 2 and verses 24 and 25 (NKJV) "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth".
This is in harmony with the bible book of Philippians chapter 2 verse 3 (NKJV) which instructs: "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself."
This tells us that a bible following Christian leader will be: open, receptive, kind, supportive, truthful, ready to help and open to hear the views of others.
It seems that a good leader must be the classic zen-like holy man.
CLUE #3 - Quick to anger.
CLUE #4 - Unreceptive and closed minded.
CLUE #5 - Full of guile and manipulative (selfish).
CLUE #6 - Oppressive.
If a leader that was once such a ground breaker has become such that they fulfil all six clues then my advice would be to relocate right now.
Analysis 3 - Why do they fall?
Why does a once great human fail?
Are we incapable of success or do we simply make some error that snowballs out of control?
It is my opinion that a tiny, seemingly unimportant, error creeps in to the thinking of the ground breaker and this results in a change in the way they view the work being done. They come to see the "ministry" as their misistry... The wisdom as their wisdom... The power as their power... this leads quite naturally to the desire to hold on to what they see as their thing.
Once you want to hold onto something like that you can come to fear that it will be taken from you. From fear comes the need to protect it. (Your protect it because pride says it is yours).
If you are a follower of Christ everything you own and everything you do is Christ's. The conceit of the heart says "I am powerful" just like the morning star, just like Saul, Just like Paddy, Just like each of us. Then the vanity says "It is my power, I will keep it for myself". You become not so unlike Gollom "It is my precious!" you shout sitting in the dark, nursing it and removing yourself from reality.
To keep that "magic", that sparkle you must heed the psalmist who in chapter 25 and verse 9 of Psalms (NKJV) says of God "The humble He guides in justice, And the humble He teaches His way." If you are going to be a zen-like holy man, breaking new ground, it is vital that your learn the lesson that is taught throughout the bible like in the book of James Chapter 4 and verse 10 (NKJV) "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up".
For the Christian the point of failure is when you even consider that anything was ever yours.
Case Study #5 - Dream of Death: a study in paranoia and sadness
I was (at one stage) responsible for about a third of the on-line content on the subject of the south African some people called (Uncle Dream) Dream Daddy: Hennie van Niekerk. However this man that pioneered clear thinking and dream interpretation from the Christian stand point has fallen. Fallen hard.
I went looking for further material from Mr Niekerk to aid the interpretation of a dream but it was this documentary that I found: http://www.sabcnews.com/specialassignment/prophetscript.html (overview found here: http://www.sabcnews.com/specialassignment/prophet.html with photo's) apparently transmitted May 11, 2004.
Van Niekerk’s paranoia seemed to grow in tandem with his power. His power was growing because of the fear he instilled... with constant threats and outbursts of wrath. No one felt they dared question him. To question him would be to question God. Van Niekerk’s rousing sermons contained increasingly incomprehensible and incoherent teachings. The madness may not have been readily visible to ordinary members at the regular Sunday services… but more and more meetings were being held behind closed doors. Only a chosen few were invited and sworn to secrecy.
This investigation that I had found the results of was undertaken by award winning journalist Anna-Maria Lombard and was filmed by Byron Taylor.
Over a decade van Niekerk built up a huge following in town. His services were charged with mystic zeal. In his presence and guided by his prayers, people say they saw magnificent visions and communed with God. Van Niekerk interpreted their visions and dreams. Slowly but surely he gained almost absolute power over every aspect of the lives of those disciples most committed to serving his ministry. They now say he used his power to intimidate, manipulate and terrify them.
I was in shock. When a teacher whose works you value suddenly crumbles to dust in front of you it is a devastating experience.
It has taken van Niekerk-survivors years to rebuild their lives – some say they only started to experience healing 6 years after they parted from him. But now they want to tell their stories and warn others of the dangers of mind control and brainwashing at the hands of such a powerful figure.
Understandably I was anxious to verify these claims. I searched but the usually dry lack of mention across the Internet remained all these years on. I was not ready for the story that I eventually found.
The sentencing of a pastor’s son who sexually molested a 11-year-old boy has been delayed until January for him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine a suitable sentence.
Linus van Niekerk, 20, son of pastor Hennie van Niekerk of the Abundant Life Ministries Church in Makhado in Limpopo, has pleaded guilty to charges of indecent assault.
If that was not a shocker on it's own. I found that the story in the documentary was true. This news item is dated 09/12/2003 and can be found here: http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_1457074,00.html
"The boy's mother says church members and colleagues at the school where the couple taught were ostracising them for reporting the abuse.
'But we had a duty as parents and responsibility to society to report the incident,' his mother insists."
It would seem that in a cult like way the family of van Niekerk have abused their power to oppress a victim.
The boy's parents say that soon after Van Niekerk jun was arrested, they were verbally abused and, in one instance, threatened with physical violence in their own home.
"They are trying to make it sound as if we are the offenders," said the boy's father.
"They pressured us to leave the school grounds," said the mother. "We were given the cold shoulder by both church and staff members.
Only one church member and two teachers have secretly comforted us about what had happened."
The family has applied for an interim court interdict against further harassment.
What we can see here is, without doubt, an attempt to control "the facts".
When leaders fail it is not only they but everyone they touch that is hurt.
This particular fall has been a descent into madness that will only end when all power has been stripped from Hennie van Niekerk or he dies.
Then one night he told me, "Please come tonight I want you to come and help me with the prayer session." I said I will go and help you. When I got there he said look I want to explain, I want to show you something but you must not talk, because if you talk about this god will strike you.
How does this statement hold up against the Gospel of Matthew? In Matthew Chapter 11 and verse 29 (NKJV) it says: "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."
Where as van Niekerk offered only fear.
"That upstairs radio station was always locked... he told me that I am the only one that can see what’s going on inside. So he opened this, me and someone else, I can’t mention his name now, who knew what was going on there, because that other person was doing it with him. So he’s going in there, opens up, closes all the blinds switches on the big computer there, puts in a CD, and the next thing that comes up Las Vegas whatever. I ask him what’s this and he says, 'This is a gambling programme and he is connected via internet directly to some kind of gambling site in Las Vegas where they play horses'..."
This is what happens when the fall is far enough and hight high enough:
For years after the family fled the plot, Syliva lived in fear. Every little headache, every little sneeze could mean the fulfilment of Hennie van Niekerk’s prophesy.
In that time, JP suffered a mental breakdown. He knew things were not improving among the flock. The Holy Spirit seemed to be far away… as Van Niekerk’s outbursts got worse… and his teachings got stranger. So JP went on an intensive spiritual purge in search of God.
The give away is a small linking paragraph that was never intended to be a main point in the documentary but given what we have concluded about falling it tells all.
Hennie says he took over a small debt-ridden church. That he grew it into a multi-million-rand enterprise... that other pastors envied and wanted for themselves. The church itself has declined to comment.
Hennie van Niekerk thought he was something.
There is the humble beginning, the gifting, growth and authority and then the pride.
All that is left in this mans self directed world is the completion of the fall.
It seems to me that the man, though once great, has become unhinged. He no longer bows to God in humility and he holds himself as important.
Can Hennie van Niekerk hope to avoid the destruction he faces?
In the second book of Chronicles chapter 7 and verse 14 we are told: "if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (NKJV)
Later in the same book (chapter 12 verse 12) we see a man that escapes: "When he humbled himself, the wrath of the Lord turned from him, so as not to destroy him completely; and things also went well in Judah." (NKJV).
Analysis 4 - victim and crime.
Because this state of falling requires that the falling one take and use there will be those who are taken from.
Those that are taken from are the earnest seekers of the truth. Your everyday Christians, that have the misfortune to follow a falling leader.
Just like in every other abuse situation a spiritual abuse (which is what it is) situation is just as bad.
Spiritual abuse is a form of psychological abuse where the abuse victim suffers emotional damage in their quest for spiritual understanding but due to the nature of the abuse they suffer additionally as their ability to continue in a spiritual or religious life is badly damaged. Effectively the abuser has committed the deepest and most damaging rape of the soul of another.
A common reaction is the rejection of all religion or perhaps just the religion of the faller.
The victim that has been hurt by the fall from grace now has a huge amount of baggage they carry with them that might forever hinder their ability to enjoy the same kind of spiritual fulfilment they enjoyed before.
God often gets the blame, next most common to blame is the church as a whole and then all Christians.
In order to help a victim of a fallen leader the councillor must help the victim to recognise that the person they idolised was only human just like they are.
This can often be a difficult path as the fallen one can often hold great status in the mind of the victim.
Once the victim is able to recognise the fallen as simply another human they can then start to address the issue of what the fallen did.
In almost all cases counselling should follow the same path as used for debriefing and reintegrating long time cult members.
The danger remains that without this healing and recovery the victim of a fallen leader will become the next victim of the next fall.
The reason for this danger is the same reason as for any abuse instance. The abused person will often unconsciously seek out ways to re-live and re-enter the abuse situation as they often feel unable to fill any other roll.
Jesus warned his disciples that "the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy", he also told them "...but I have come that you might have life and life to it's fullest."
All the while a ground breaker, leader, or any Christian acts in a way that brings life, that is they fulfil the requirement of Micah chapter 6 and verse 8 (NKJV):
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?", all the while a person does that they could call themselves a follower of Christ.
But when a person falls, when they display the six clues of falling then they have stopped being salt and light and have become something else.
When a person allows pride in and they think to themselves this work is mine, at that point they are disciples not of Christ but of the thief that Jesus warned of.
Christians should be well aware that it is written "the wages of sin is death". The death they bring when they allow the pride that comes before the fall is the same death as the thief brings. At that moment they have fallen. At that moment they touched what was not theirs to touch they died. The death just takes a little while to show through, but when it does comes madness, paranoia, "unclean spirits" and humiliation.