The Pentecostal Cornucopia of False Teachers, Con Artists, Criminals and Heretics; Part One — The Messed Up Church

Many of the things people believe about the “Generals” of the Pentecostal movement are based on unsubstantiated stories that have been circulating for a long time.

This book is filled with inaccurate history, yet it is used as a textbook by many organizations today.

This book is filled with inaccurate history, yet it is used as a textbook by many organizations today.

In many cases, these stories are autobiographical. In other words, these prominent Pentecostals told stories about themselves and now those stories are assumed to be true, regardless of historical facts.

To add the appearance of validity, a handful of Pentecostal publishing companies have printed millions of books repeating these unsubstantiated stories. Once it’s in a book it must be true, right?


These are all people who lived in the recent past and we’ve got detailed information to prove their stories are true, or utterly false.

Here are some good summary articles of Pentecostal history:

The Prophetic Movement in our Time

The Foundation and History of the Pentecostal Movement (12 page history)

(Note that all of the “Names (dates)”are links to Wikipedia articles)

Edward Irving (1792-1834)


Edward Irving was a precursor to the Pentecostal movement that came roughly 70 years after his own early death. He was a true “megachurch” pastor in London in the early 1800s, but his time of ministry ended in disgrace.

  • He was convinced that they were living in the last generation before the return of Christ.

  • He expected new Apostles and speaking in tongues to return as a result of his extreme end-times beliefs.

  • He permitted and encouraged chaotic “tongues” and “prophecies” to interrupt services in his Presbyterian church, which he was eventually removed from after being charged with teaching heresy.

  • Irving believed that Jesus had a sinful human nature and that the Holy Spirit kept Jesus from sinning, which he connected to the idea that we, too, could live sinless lives on this earth if we utilized the power of the Holy Spirit enough.

  • Edward Irving died of tuberculosis at the age of 42. He believed that God was going to miraculously heal him and restore him to his church up until the end.

Edward Irving Barred from his Pastorate

John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907)


Although Dowie is considered a great miracle-worker, an actual study of history shows him to be a scandalous fraud and cult-leader. The amount of damage he caused is immeasurable, both in his own day and among the many people who took his terrible theology and practices around the world. The standard Pentecostal narrative claims he was mighty man of God who somehow “lost his way” late in his life, but the truth is much darker than that.

  • Dowie created a luxurious life for himself by collecting tithes from as many people as possible. He prayed to heal people who paid him a fee (“tithe”) and usually refused to offer his services for free.

  • Dowie invented the thoroughly manipulative system of “faith-healing” that exists to this day.

  • Dowie used people as “plants” in his audience who pretended to be healed; he had his own entourage of schemers who attended his meetings.

  • Dowie strategically used crutches and wheelchairs on stage to fake his non-existent healings. This concept was utilized by John G. Lake and countless others ever since.

  • Dowie had a following of approximately 6,000 people in 1900, and he secretly bought a large amount of real estate with his profits (“tithes”). He announced the founding of the city of Zion City, 40 miles from Chicago where he personally owned everything and would make a huge profit from all properties-he even owned the phony “bank” that everyone was required to deposit their money into.

  • Dowie established a theocratic political and economic structure and prohibited smoking, drinking, eating pork, and the practice of any form of modern medicine.

  • Dowie also established a range of businesses, healing homes, and a large Tabernacle. Followers from across the world descended on Zion. Zion has been characterized as “a carefully-devised large-scale platform for securities fraud requiring significant organizational, legal, and propagandistic preparation to carry out.”[14]

  • Dowie claimed that he was Elijah “the Restorer” (referring to Malachi 4:1) and even wore an elaborate costume to validate his “true identity…”

  • Dowie became a huge topic of controversy in newspapers all over America in the early 1900s. His egomaniacal proclamations, and cult-leader status made headlines for thousands of articles for a period of years, ending around 1905 when he suffered a stroke and was removed from power in Zion, as his his dubious and fraudulent activity finally caught up with him.

  • Dowie died in 1907 at the age of 59.

  • From the rubble of Dowie’s Zion City utopia came leaders who copied many of Dowie’s ideas: John G. Lake, F.F. Bosworth, Gordon Lindsey, and Charles Fox Parham (amongst others).

“The world knows that in his latter days, Dowie lost his church and was confused regarding his ministry. However, in his heyday, Dowie did marvelous things for God.”

— Excerpt From: Lester Sumrall. “Pioneers of Faith.” iBooks.

John Alexander Dowie and the Invention of Modern Faith Healing, 1882-89 (Academic paper from historian Barry Morton)

The Big Con: John Alexander Dowie and the Spread of Zionist Christianity in Southern Africa (Academic paper from historian Barry Morton)

John Alexander Dowie (Great informational page from researcher and author John Andrew Collins)

Frank W. Sanford (1862-1948)

Frank Sanford was a true cult-leader who built his own “end-times” commune in Maine, where he demanded total submission from his followers.


He was greatly influenced by John Alexander Dowie, and like Dowie, he believed he was Elijah.

  • Sanford believed he was living in the last generation before the return of Christ and that God had ordained him as a specially anointed leader for the entire world.

  • “Shiloh” was, for a time, a fast-growing movement that tragically lead to the death and sickness of men, woman, and children.

  • Sanford served jail time for manslaughter due to the deaths that occurred as a result of his horrible leadership.

  • Charles F. Parham was inspired by Sanford’s vision for “true Christianity” and was a guest teacher at Shiloh in the summer of 1900.

  • Parham took Sanford’s ideas with him to Topeka, Kansas that autumn where he founded his tiny group of followers who initiated the Pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues.

The Story of Shiloh

Frank Sanford Information Page (from Researcher & Author, John Andrew Collins)

Fair, Clear, and Terrible: the Story of Shiloh Maine (Book written by Shirley Nelson, whose parents and grandparents were part of the Shiloh cult)


Charles Fox Parham (1873-1929)

Parham is the father of Pentecostalism. His actual life story, however, is filled with scandals, false prophecies, and even overt racism.

  • Parham believed that they were living in the last generation before the return of Christ

  • Parham expected new Apostles and speaking in tongues to return as a result of his extreme end-times beliefs.

  • Parham did not believe in the very common unintelligible tongues of today-he believed that tongues would be supernaturally speaking a foreign language for the purpose of spreading Christianity.

  • Parham raised money and sent his tongues-speaking students to China where they discovered that they were not speaking Chinese (or any other known language).

This meaningless scribbling (“written tongues”) was originally thought to be a written language given supernaturally to Agnes Ozman in 1901.

This meaningless scribbling (“written tongues”) was originally thought to be a written language given supernaturally to Agnes Ozman in 1901.

Here’s the plaque commemorating Parham at the Assemblies of God museum of Pentecostal history:


“The first Pentecostals, in the modern sense of the word, can be traced to Parham’s Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901. In spite of controversy over the origins and timing of Parham’s emphasis on tongues, all historians agree the movement began early in 1901 just as the world entered the 20th century. As a result of this Topeka Pentecost, Parham formulated the doctrine that tongues were the ”Bible evidence” of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Teaching that tongues were a supernatural impartation of human languages for the purpose of world evangelization, Parham also advocated that missionaries need not study foreign languages, since they would be able to preach in miraculous tongues all over the world.”

— “The Century of the Holy Spirit” by Vinson Synan, published in 2001

Who Is the Father of the Pentecostal Movement?

The Dubious Legacy of Charles Parham: Racism and Cultural Insensitivities among Pentecostals

Pentecostal/Tongues Roots-Amazing Facts (Charles Parham)

Were Tongues Real Languages? (very interesting article with information about Parham and his followers)

Charles Fox Parham Information Page (from Researcher & Author, John Andrew Collins)


John G. Lake (1870-1935)

Lake is referred to as a role model for his healing ministry, but this is all based on unsubstantiated stories from Lake and his promoters. In reality, John G. Lake was a con man and relentless self-promoter who hurt countless people with his fraudulent activity.

Perhaps more than any other person in this article, John G. Lake’s ideas laid the foundation for today’s Word of Faith and New Apostolic Reformation movements.

John G. Lake got his start under John Alexander Dowie. In 1898 Lake opened a small chapter of Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church in Sault Ste Marie and held meetings in the attic of his parents’ home. In 1901 he relocated his family to Zion, Illinois, where he worked in the theocratic town’s construction department. When Dowie was removed from power in 1905 there was a struggle for power that lead to the burgeoning careers of John G. Lake, F.F. Bosworth, and others. In 1907 Charles Fox Parham came to Zion City and tried to gain leadership of the confused community by having a tent revival; at one of those meetings John G. Lake converted to a tongue-speaking Pentecost faith that would characterize his life from that point forward. The followers of Parham in Zion City became notorious for killing people in the name of exorcizing demons.

Read the following quotes and notice how Lake’s ideas sound almost exactly like Bill Johnson, Kenneth Copeland and Todd White:

“The power of God, the Holy Ghost, is the Spirit of Dominion. It makes one a god.”

— John G. Lake, His Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith, Kenneth Copeland Publications 1995, pg. 13.

“The Christian lives as God in the world, dominating sin, evil, sickness. Cast it out as evil; it is not of God. Dominate it! Put it away! It is not honouring to Jesus Christ that sickness should possess us. We do not want disease. We want to be gods. Jesus said, ‘I said ye are gods.’ It is with the attitude of gods in the world that Jesus wants the Christian to live.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“Reading John G. Lake furthered my quest along the way. His insights into the Spirit-filled life are the greatest I have seen anywhere. His insights and stories ruined me.”

— Excerpt From: Johnson, Bill. “The Essential Guide to Healing” iBooks.

“I want you to hear what Jesus said about himself. God was in Christ, wasn’t He? An incarnation. God is in you, an incarnation, if you were born again. You are incarnate…”

— John G. Lake, John G. Lake, His Life, His Sermons, His Boldness of Faith, 1995, pg. 196.

“Jesus Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration is God’s eternal pattern of how much man may become absorbed in, reflect, and reveal God. Why, when Jesus was transfigured before them, His clothes became white and glistening—His face shone as the light. The Word says it took place while He prayed. While He was praying He was transfigured. It reveals the power of prayer. It reveals the quality in the nature of man to become identified in oneness with God, so that the glories of God are not shining upon him from heaven, but radiation out of him. God resident in man, shining forth. ”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“In some ways, John G. Lake has had more of an impact on my life than any other historical figure. His understanding of the kingdom of God and the life of dominion over the powers of darkness is unparalleled. I have always felt that he was a hundred years ahead of his time.”

— Bill Johnson.-“Defining Moments: God-Encounters with Ordinary People Who Changed the World.”

“Everything in the Word of God that ever was possible to the Lord Jesus Christ is likewise possible to the Christian. God never meant to establish Christians on one plane and Christ on another. He purposed by God’s grace and by the Holy Ghost to come into our heart to lift us up, to develop us, and bring us up into God until we stand together on Christ’s plane. Not Christ coming down to our debased state, but our debased condition giving way to the divine operation of the Holy Ghost in our life, until we stand exalted in the Lord Jesus Christ—Christ conquerors, Christ revealers.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“Personally, I received my ministry in the gospel of healing through John Alexander Dowie, a man whom I have loved with all my soul.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“The thing that was forfeited in the garden was regained. God gave him [Adam] dominion over the works of His hand. God made him His understudy, His king to rule over everything that had life. Man was master, man lived in the realm of god. He lived on terms of equality with God. God was a faith God. All God had to do was to believe that the sun was, and the sun was. All God had to do was to believe that the planets would be, and they were. Man belonged to God’s class of being – a faith man, And he lived in the creative realm of God…”

— The Collected Works of John G. Lake, Kenneth Copeland Publications, Fort Worth, Texas 1994, pg. 66.

“The objective of Christianity is the kingdom of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in this world. When this world is changed by the power of God—when earth becomes a part of heaven, and the same conditions that now prevail in heaven are here in the world—will it not be wonderful?”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“John G. Lake—a Canadian-born healing evangelist who saw over 100,000 healings in the healing rooms ministry he founded in Spokane, Washington, in the early 1900s—is one of Bill’s heroes. That’s because of Lake’s understanding of the unseen world and how to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to bring breakthrough into people’s lives.”

— The Truth About Bethel’s Bill Johnson-Charisma News, Aug. 26, 2016

“It is just as offensive for the Christian to take medicine as for the drunkard to take whiskey. How ashamed a Christian ought to be that he is trusting in the arm of flesh or in a medicine bottle somewhere around the house. You go home and gather up the abominable stuff and put it in the alley box and then apologize to the alley box.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“You do not find “if it be thy will” in the teaching of Jesus. “Friend, Jesus had declared His will in the most emphatic manner. His will is always to heal if you but come to Him.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“It has been hard for us to grasp the principles of this life of faith. In the beginning, man’s spirit was the dominant force in the world. When he sinned his mind became dominant. Sin dethroned the spirit and crowned the intellect. But grace is restoring the spirit to its place of dominion. When man comes to realize this, he will live in the realm of the supernatural without effort. No longer will faith be a struggle, but a normal living in the realm of God. The spiritual realm places man where communion with God is a normal experience. Miracles are then his native breath.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“The gospel of Jesus is as simple as can be. As God lived in the body and operated through the man Jesus, so the man on the throne, Jesus, operates through His body, the Church, in the world. Even as Jesus Himself was the representative of God the Father, so also the Church is the representative of Christ. As Jesus yielded Himself unto all righteousness, so the Church should yield herself to do all the will of Christ. The wonderful simplicity of the gospel of Jesus is itself a marvel, the wonder is that men have not understood always the whole process of salvation. How was it that men mystified it? Why is it that we have not lived a better life? Because our eyes were dim and we did not see and we did not realize that God left us here in this world to demonstrate Him, even as the Father left Jesus in the world to demonstrate the Father.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.

“Paul prayed three times. The first two times he was not conscious of the answer. He prayed again, bless God, and this time God met his faith and said to him, “Paul, My grace is sufficient for you.” Apply it, Paul. Dive in, Paul, and take all you want of the grace of God. It will fix your thorn in the flesh and everything else that is troubling you.”

— Excerpt From: Lake, John G. “The Collected Works of John G. Lake.” Apple Books.
  • John G. Lake made the claim that he was a very wealthy businessman and member of the Chicago Board of Trade, but there are records of who was on the Chicago Board of Trade and Lake is not listed.

John G. Lake impersonating a “great Arab preacher” in order to increase crowds at one of his events.

John G. Lake impersonating a “great Arab preacher” in order to increase crowds at one of his events.

John G. Lake’s Formative Years 1870-1908; The Making of a Con Man (Academic paper from historian Barry Morton)

Yes, John G. Lake was a con man (Academic paper from historian Barry Morten)

‘The Devil Who Heals’: Fraud and Falsification in the Evangelical Career of John G Lake, Missionary to South Africa 1908–1913 (Academic paper from historian Barry Morton)

The Revival Of John G. Lake’s Ministry (Research paper/PDF from Christian Research Ministries Newsletter in Spokane Washington)

Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947)


“He exclaimed, “I see it. I see it.” I asked, “What do you see?”
Shutting his eyes again, he said, “I see the greatest revival in the history of mankind coming to Planet Earth, maybe as never before. And I see the dead raised. I see every form of disease healed. I see whole hospitals emptied with no one there. Even the doctors are running down the streets shouting. “He told me that there would be untold numbers of uncountable multitudes that would be saved. “Then he opened his eyes and looked at me and said, “I will not see it, but you shall see it. The Lord says that I must go on to my reward, but that you will see the mighty works that He will do upon the earth in the last days.”

— FALSE PROPHECY! (Sumrall died in 1996) from Wigglesworth Excerpt From: Lester Sumrall. “Pioneers of Faith.” iBooks.

“My grandparents also sat under Smith Wigglesworth’s ministry. Grandpa loved to tell me about those days, but he would add, ‘Not everyone loved Wigglesworth.’”

— Excerpt From: Johnson, Bill. “The Essential Guide to Healing” iBooks.

Smith Wigglesworth-The Facts

Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith or Apostasy?

Smith Wigglesworth – A Book Review by Mike Wright

What Did Smith Wigglesworth Really Preach?

If You Can’t Heal ‘Em, Beat ‘Em? by Costi Hinn

William M. Branham (1909-1965)

Branham is such a profound and influential false teacher that two entire websites are devoted to exposing his errors: and These websites feature extensive and exhaustive research, done by former members of the Branham cult.

William Branham was not a great man of God. Branham was so detached from Biblical Christianity that even Word of Faith founder Kenneth Hagin called him a false teacher and predicted he would die two years before it happened from a car accident in 1965. Although he died on Dec. 24, 1965, Branham’s followers refused to bury his body since they believed he would rise from the dead. They finally gave up and buried him on April 11th of the next year.

  • Branham didn’t believe in the Trinity.

  • Branham believed he was the end-time “Elijah.”

  • Branham taught that Eve and the serpent had sexual intercourse and Cain was born as a result, and that consequently every woman potentially carried the literal seed of the devil, so he always believed women to be inferior and untrustworthy.

  • Branham was a pathological liar who told many variations of stories for decades with conflicting details. Branham’s lies are recorded on tape.

Many of the most prominent New Apostolic Reformation leaders refer to William Branham as a great man of god who should be emulated:

William Branham was a professional story-teller (also known as a pathological liar) and he claimed to be a former Baptist who eventually embraced Pentecostalism; except that his “Baptist” church was actually a “Baptist-Pentecostal” church.

Today’s New Apostolic Reformation leaders all spread the same falsehoods and wild exaggerations that Branham started:

“Out of Pentecostalism would be birthed some of the greatest healing evangelists during the 1948 Healing Revival. It is true that the impetus for this great revival came through a Baptist, William Branham, but the majority of those who saw what God was doing in Branham, who became hungry to be used like him were not Baptists, but Pentecostals.”

— Randy Clark. “Amazed by the Power of God” iBooks.

Here’s a big article that proves that William Branham preached to Pentecostals and his own church was called “Pentecostal Tabernacle” or the “Branham Tabernacle” right from the beginning: Preaching at Pentecostal Churches.

Here’s a big article that shows how Branham had an almost infinite number of contradictory stories about his father dying: Charles Branham’s death.

Branham was the most prominent leader associated with the “New Order of the Latter Rain” movement, but he should be more accurately known as a member of the Healing Revival that took place from 1947 to 1958. The Latter Rain movement was declared unbiblical by the Assemblies of God in 1949, but those bad ideas have re-emerged today as the New Apostolic Reformation. Here is the Assemblies of God Resolution No. 7 from 1949:

1949 Assseblies of God.jpg

William Branham-Good Short Biography from Apologetics Index

The Teachings of the “Prophet” William Branham from Let Us Reason

Exposing the New Apostolic Reformation’s roots: William Branham & his heretics

William Branham Information Page (from Researcher & Author John Collins)

Multiple Interview Articles with Researcher, Author & Former Branham Follower: John Collins

This is Part One of a series.

via The Pentecostal Cornucopia of False Teachers, Con Artists, Criminals and Heretics; Part One — The Messed Up Church

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