By Olympia Barczynska
IN 1999 a video called `Transformations' was produced in the USA and, within a matter of months, it was sweeping the world.
This video is a graphic presentation of four cities across the world in which the alleged presence of God has transformed not only the churches, but also entire communities. George Otis Jr., of The Sentinel Group, presents this hour long documentary where largely undated film footage is interspersed by interviews with various church leaders in their respective cities.
The message that the video seeks to put out is as George Otis said, "Learn how the power of prayer can deliver similar results in your own neighbourhood". The video taken at face value seems to confirm that revival will break out, churches will grow, and communities will change their social and moral characteristics if Christians unite, pray and practise spiritual warfare. However, when one simply seeks to compare what is shown in the video with the truth presented in the bible a very different picture emerges.
The same would be true if one tried to examine the physical evidence of the claims in their actual locations. A great inconsistency would become apparent, but that is not the scope of this present article. Instead let us now examine the video presentation and question some of its claims in the light of the teaching of scripture.
On the video we are firstly taken to Cali, Columbia - a South American city of well over a million people. A brief history is shown of the work of Julio and Ruth Ruibal, and Julio's commitment to church unity. Scenes are shown of mass rallies, prayer meetings and several hundred pastors taking a covenant of unity.
Subsequently details of the assassination of Julio Ruibal *1 are shown and a moving testimony from his wife concerning his death. It should be noted here that Julio was killed because of a property dispute, not because of his religious endeavours.
Secondly we are taken to Kiambu, Kenya. Time is given to an interview with the African pastor of `The Prayer Cave' where film footage of meetings is shown to support the idea that revival has come to Kiambu. Much emphasis is given to show that a witch, Mama Jane, left the town after people started to gather for prayer.
Thirdly, a visit is made to Hemet, California where it is made out that Hemet used to suffer from more than the usual share of problems which afflicted both the churches and the community. Two pastors are interviewed and scenes are shown of a large-scale outdoor event where many church groups were involved.
Lastly, Almolonga a small town of only 19,000 inhabitants in Guatemala is visited. Here it is stated that eight out of ten residents consider themselves born again. A Christian event at a crowded stadium and excerpts from a church meeting are seen. The most memorable parts of the film footage are scenes of bountiful harvests and giant vegetables, with the implication that this is directly linked to the spiritual transformation of the town.
In conclusion George Otis summarises the events shown and a song is played where the words `We have declared war' are repeated throughout.
Possibly the most startling thing about this video can be best stated in the question `Where is the Lord Jesus in it all?' Indeed where was He? Constant reference was made to principalities and powers, and strongholds of darkness etc. Satan and his hordes were certainly given the limelight. The issue of sin was not mentioned at all.
Obviously sin was not considered the root of all the problems experienced by these communities. The emphasis instead was always on principalities and powers being the cause of the evil, and prayer, fasting and unity being the agent of salvation.
This brings us to the whole modern teaching on spiritual warfare and territorial spirits, which `Transformation' promotes. New and extra-biblical revelations are the foundation to this. What is more, techniques and strategies need to be followed in order to see the desired result. The collective formula is known as strategic spiritual warfare. Key elements of this have been applied in all the four locations and great similarities can be seen.
Initially the enemy's activity needs to be identified and located. In Cali people were asked to note the spiritual dynamics in their immediate neighbourhoods and demonic strongholds were identified.
The pastor in Kiambu said that the problem of the town was in the principalities and powers, that there was a spirit of witchcraft ruling, and that the spiritual power over the town had to be broken. One of the two pastors interviewed in Hemet said, "There was a spirit of competition that reigned and ruled". While the main perceived need in Almolonga was to "assault the forces of darkness through prayer and fasting".
According to George Otis, a persevering and committed leadership amongst the Christians is also needed, as well as a visible unity between the churches.
For example in Cali around two hundred and fifty pastors entered a covenant of unity. In all the cities, mass rallies or prayer meetings were shown. Fervent, united prayer was seen as the crucial ingredient. The focus of this prayer was against the principalities and powers, which were assaulted often in a very public way. Usually the final scenes shown of these cities were great crowds of people in celebration mood, with dancing and flag waving as if to prove that transformation really had come to each city.
It must be mentioned that in all four cities, video clips spanning many years were patched together to give what could be a very biased story. One can show anything in sequence on film and present it as a documentary to be believed by gullible Christians.
The general way that the enemy's activity is located and identified is through the use of spiritual mapping.
[ Ephesians 6:10 has been quoted as a passage which belies the above quote. On first reading it could be considered correct. However the idea put forward by Peter Wagner and his associates is unhealthy and the way they apply it is unscriptural.
That is the thrust of of this article. -Ed]
C. Peter Wagner was one of the original proponents of this practice. In the film footage for Hemet, California we are told that "Spiritual mapping brings us to a place of knowledge and information". The purpose of this mapping is to identify all the perceived strongholds of the enemy. This desire to come to a place of knowledge and information concerning the powers of darkness is dangerous ground.
It bears similarity to eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden. The Lord has placed certain boundaries in the spiritual world, which are not to be transgressed. The mystery of iniquity is already at work (2 Thessalonians 2:7), but where are we called to delve into this mystery?
The spiritual mapping of problems was mentioned many times on the video and considered very important. Of course the bible tells us nothing about such an activity. A question needs asking here, why was Hemet chosen as an example out of all the cities in America? The answer is geographical.
Hemet is only some 60 miles from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California which is the source and hot bed of this modern teaching on spiritual warfare, and students are often taken to Hemet on field trips.
For example C. Peter Wagner teaches a course there called Confronting the Powers and even the prospectus states that writing an analytical report on the spiritual mapping in Hemet is one of the two assignment options.
Great emphasis was placed on unity, and that prayer should be made for unity. Unity on what basis is the question that needs asking? Nothing was said about this. Also nothing was said whether denominations ceased to exist after unity was reached? From the pictures shown it was probably unity on the basis of the lowest common denominator.
A covenant of unity is not a biblical teaching as unity in the Spirit is an automatic reality between people who are abiding in Christ, and simply living in obedience to Him. Again we see a clear deviation from scripture.
An even greater deviation can be seen in the activities promoted in the prayer gatherings. It was said that most of the people in Cali who came in to the first evening of joint prayer were convinced that it would not work.
This attitude betrays their lack of understanding of who God is and how He works. The Kenyan pastor said, "Prayer generates a power". This is a concept from the realm of magic/the occult and not Christianity.
The focus of these prayer gatherings seemed to be to storm the gates of the enemy. Nowhere in the bible are we told to pray against the principalities and powers, or to engage in warfare with them. The bible says nothing about attacking demonic strongholds. Instead we are told to "Stand against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11), not to launch an offensive.
Spiritual warfare is a personal battle and does not extend to cover unbelievers. Nowhere are we told to gain cities for Christ. In this form of spiritual warfare the interaction increasingly becomes only with what is seen as the enemy.
While narrating the events in Cali, George Otis said, "The Kingdom of God has descended upon Cali". This is a totally unbiblical concept, which betrays a very dangerous understanding c that it is in man's power to bring in the kingdom.
The kingdom of God is where God's rule is accepted and acknowledged. At present the kingdom has nothing to do with the earthly and natural. The Lord Jesus said "My kingdom is not of this world". He will bring in His kingdom in a future day, but we cannot bring in His kingdom.
Many scenes were shown of large gatherings in each location. In Cali the prayer gatherings showed mass displays of the flesh. The Holy Spirit, the dove of God, does not find a resting-place in such situations.
Much flag waving, jumping, shouting, displays of emotion, costumed dancers, exuberant worshippers, noisy music etc was seen. It was a razzmatazz, a South American carnival.
Who there was actually listening to the still small voice of the Lord?
The scenes from the African `church' were appalling. Can such a place be called a church? All the people were dancing wildly and waving tree branches. One could be forgiven for thinking that this was a scene from some animistic tribal celebration, or a disco. In the background a sign could be spotted "Intoxication in Jesus".
Following George Otis' words, a chorus of informed intercession was yielding impressive results and scenes of an outdoor event were shown taking place in Hemet.
It was a garish/distasteful circus/
While showing a scene of a child having her face painted, the words "a good dose of God's love" were heard. It was like a country pageant, all shallow and sentimental. During this carnival it was said that people were attracted to the pro-active love, and more than three hundred gave their hearts to Christ. What is pro-active love? Where are those three hundred people now?
In Almolonga an astonishing scene was shown of a group meeting where several dozen boys of adolescent age were jumping frenziedly up and down. The whole scene was called fervent worship.
This is exactly the kind of worship the prophets of Baal performed in Elijah's day. Why were there so many scenes of costumed dancers? What were they doing? War dances? Also what do the flags represent?
The big question that raises itself at this point is what kind of Christianity is being presented here? The word gospel was perhaps mentioned on the video, but not once was it defined. Instead there was plenty of evidence of easy believism. One wonders what the churches in Cali are teaching?
South America is considered part of the Third World, and it has a mass of poorly educated, highly superstitious people. We hear of revival in South America, but what is really happening there? All the
false teachings of western Televangelists have taken deep root there and have developed their own expressions, often mixed in with a little native belief.
True believers are the minority on the South American religious scene, which has swallowed much of the Faith/Prosperity message. Until recently Catholicism was one of the major folk religions of South America, now Charismatic Pentecostalism is taking first place as it continues to contain many of the elements of popular religion and local culture.
In Kiambu, Kenya the pastor said, "Once the power of witchcraft was broken then the presence of God started to hover over the town". What a weird concept of God! Which God was he speaking of? Such concepts are totally foreign to the bible, yet such beliefs have existed for thousands of years in pagan and animistic religions. After this described event took place the pastor said, "Favours, prosperity, that is what we are seeing now". It is clear that as a proponent of the Word-Faith/Prosperity message that was all he ever wanted to see.
Having covered the basic ground of the video there are still two scenes that deserve a mention, as they are hard to forget by all that have seen them.
The first one is in Kiambu where Mama Jane, the witch, was portrayed as placing a fetish in the church structure which was powerful enough to affect the church.
A big thing was made of Mama Jane and that she left the town when people prayed. Nothing was said about Kenyan culture - that on nearly every street corner practising witches/witch doctors are displaying their wares.
In a town the size of Kiambu (65,000) there could be several hundred practising witches, at least! Nothing was even mentioned about them, or whether they also left the town. Also the spiritual condition of a church affected by a fetish should be called into question.
The second scene is in Almolonga where bountiful harvests and giant vegetables were shown. This is really out of place! No mention was made of the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and soil conditions.
Carrots of the size shown are commonly on sale in the street markets of Hong Kong. The climate in Guatemala is excellent for growing vegetables, and what is more, Guatemala's fields were not farmed to full intensity until recently because of the long-standing war.
What was most disturbing about the vegetable scenes was the implication that the vegetables grew so large as a result of God's blessing. Because the Christians in Almolonga united and prayed and fought the principalities and powers God had outpoured His blessing.
If this is the case, in what light does it place the Soviet and Chinese saints who suffered from cold and hunger and much worse in prison camps but would not deny their Lord? Did they lack faith? Did they miss out on God's blessing because Peter Wagner's teaching on spiritual warfare had not yet reached their countries?
What of those in Hebrews 11 - those of whom the world was not wor thy, who wandered about, being destitute, afflicted, tormented? These were commended for their faith, and not criticised for failing to launch an offensive on Satan.
In these above two examples we see either a deliberate case of deception on the part of the Transformation video producers, or extreme naivety. In either case we should be alerted to show extreme caution in whatever else is portrayed.
At the end of the video George Otis said, "There are steps we can and should be taking to position our communities for a visitation of the Holy Spirit. These include asking God to increase our appetite for the things that attract His presence, most notable unity, holiness, faith and humility. We must cultivate a crop of persevering leaders whose collective vision for the community is watered by informed sustained intercession".
He also spoke of "altering the spiritual DNA of a community". This may sound like mumbo jumbo to use mild terminology, but the first quote if analysed reveals a frightening thing, for example to whom does the `we' refer to?
Does the `we' mean a band of super-apostles, who will control the world? In all that George Otis said the onus is on us. The responsibility for community transformation and the coming of the kingdom of God to earth depends on us.
His teaching taken to its logical conclusion means that we in fact become gods, masters of our universe, and can dispense with the God of Heaven. If what is being said is true then Christians are to blame for many of the world's problems.
If evil rules in this world it is because Christians have not prayed enough and have not overcome the principalities and powers in their given community. This is both unreasonable and unbiblical.
In all this talk about spiritual warfare no mention is made of personal sin, personal accountability to God or obedience. Breaking free from demonic power is a matter of individual faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not a collective experience.
No mention is made of Christ's finished work at Calvary where Satan became a defeated foe. Everywhere the impression is given that we have a very strong devil and a very weak God.
Repeatedly reference was made to what `we', as the church should do in order to see change. A very, very faulty understanding of God was shown in the video, and no acknowledgment was made that He is in fact sovereign.
What about the Lord in the heavens who reigns and rules? Unfortunately an unhealthy emphasis on the forces of darkness prevails throughout the whole of this video.
George Otis is very clearly presenting a formula for change of strategies and techniques, which has no relation to the bible. It may contain some biblical terminology, but is far removed from what the bible teaches.
The undiscerning will fall foul of this seemingly pragmatic approach. A formula needs to be followed if one is to see community transformation according to the message of Transformations.
How did the early church manage to turn the world upside down without these new techniques?
When Christians begin to believe that techniques are essential to the release of spiritual power, they are entering the world of the occult-and this is happening on a large scale at the present time.
The whole message of this video is based on a faulty/unbiblical premise, which is more in-line with the occult realm. Indeed the commentary on the video used terminology more akin to the New Age movement than the bible, for example the use of such words as blueprint, phenomena, global etc. The video itself was produced by Global Net Productions. The concept of a global net has no relation to the God of the bible. The nearest thing that the bible mentions to a global net is the snare of Satan (the fowler of Psalm 91 etc).
At the end of the video many place names are screened on the background of a world map, where allegedly other communities have experienced transformation.
Some of these places are: Mizoram, India; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Umofai Villages, Nigeria; Sibero-America, Arctic; Resistanca, Argentina; Navapur, India; Selakan Villages, Malaysia; Beriut of Kampala, Uganda; San Nicolas, Argentina.
Invariably these are in the developing world. It would be interesting to investigate the stories of these places. However transformation for both man and his world is the aim of many, even most religions today.
One only had to watch the recent coverage of the Kumbh Mela in India to realise that even obscure gurus have high sounding spiel about world harmony and peace, with justice for all. The world is chasing an elusive dream, and now Christians are joining the band wagon, ignoring what the Lord said that His kingdom is not of this world.
The call to declare war on the enemy was heard throughout this video. If this is what we should be doing then what did the Lord Jesus achieve on the cross?
Let us consider these scriptures: Hebrews 2:14; Colossians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 3:21-22; Colossians 2:8-10; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. The battle today is between the truth of God's Word and the lie of Satan. So where are we going to take our position? Then Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".
P.S. From April 30 to May 2, 2001 the premiere of Transformations II will be shown in the USA, and then it will be launched on the world stage.
*1 The source of the information about Julio Ruibal being killed due to a property dispute is: http://www.geocities.com/smithj.geo/people.html
Of further interest to people about the "Transformation videos" is this snippet from H. Seaborn
To help in making people aware of the volves that are prowling the perimeter, I have added some important documents to my website that expose imensely popular and powerful ministries as usurpers and enemies of the Cross of Christ. In particular, these documents examine the ministries of C. Peter Wagner, promoter of the New Apostolic Reformation, and George Otis Jr., producer of the Transformations video, which has taken the unsuspecting, world-wide Christian community by storm.
You can find the articles by accessing the "New Items" page on my site.
Appeared in Issue 13 Vanguard 2001