The lure of SCOAN- a 90s Evangelical Christian context

This is a guest post by Kate, a regular commenter from the UK.

The topic might seem tangential but indulge me….To a casual reader of this blog, or someone that comes from a different background to what I’m about to describe, it can be very difficult to understand why people are attracted to SCOAN in the first place. What I’d like to do is examine the Evangelical Church in England in the 1990s and its similarities to T B Joshua’s ministry. It might just explain why seemingly “normal” people were drawn into this church.

It all started with the “Toronto Blessing”. In 1994, in the Airport Vineyard Church Toronto strange things started happening. Whilst being prayed for, people started falling over, laughing hysterically, crying and various other manifestations of the Spirit. English Christians travelled to Toronto to “Catch the Fire” and came home to spread the blessing to their own congregations. Suddenly, it was all about the Holy Spirit. Entire meetings would go by without mention of the name “Jesus”. The cross was rarely mentioned and if you didn’t fall over or have some kind of physical reaction to prayer, then something had gone wrong. It was an exhilarating but exhausting time to be a Christian. But there was a growing feeling of unease….

Nevertheless, following swiftly on was the “Brownsville Revival”, which started at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, Florida. Again, Christians travelled there to “Catch the Fire”. Again, English Christians gathered to watch videos of meetings from the other side of the world. Again, we tried to recreate what we had seen. There was a strong sense of God’s presence being on Earth, but it was in North America. We could get it here in the South of England too, but only if we copy what they do over there. More prayer meetings! More falling over! More manifestations! The more manifestations, the better.

So, what’s the relevance to TB Joshua’s ministry? Well, observant readers may have noticed similarities between these two movements – Toronto and Pensacola – and SCOAN , which I’ve listed here for clarity’s sake..

1) The emphasis on the Holy Spirit above other aspects of the Trinity

2) The importance of manifestations of the Spirit

3) The public showcasing of healings and other “big” testimonies

4)The belief that prayer meetings needed to start early in the morning or go on late into the night (early morning prayer meetings were a feature in Pensacola, I believe)

Little wonder then, that as these two movements were trailing off in the late 90s, someone else stepped up to attract the attention of these spirit-hungry Christians. After years of teaching that the Holy Spirit came from abroad and manifested itself through large assemblies of people, English Christians were only too happy to welcome T B Joshua as the next big thing. I can’t emphasise enough just how desperate people were to keep this “move of the Spirit” going. When SCOAN emerged, doing similar things to Toronto and Pensacola, no-one waited to test the ministry or to look at things objectively. It was just a natural next step.

But at the same time, this ministry demanded more. It wasn’t enough to visit and bring the blessing back – in order to really be absorbed in the Spirit, you needed to give everything up and move to Lagos. It didn’t matter if you had responsibilities – kids, mortgage, steady job – the blessing was everything. The Toronto/Pensacola years had taught us this – what is going on in your own church is not good enough. You need to latch onto someone’s else’s ministry in order to receive the blessing. And your family – who have all been subjected to this “Revival” ministry for a long time – will probably support you, at least at first.

Of course, at the time it’s difficult to be objective. When you are caught up in this wave of the Spirit but also – let’s be honest – a wave of hysteria, it’s easy to get swept away. And that’s why I believe that seemingly rational Christians became enthralled by T B Joshua. Because he demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit and that’s what mattered. As you can see from the rest of this site, T B Joshua’s ministry would turn out to have a far darker side than anyone would have predicted when we first heard of it. It greatly saddens me to think about people I care about being involved in this but I’m hoping that this article goes some way to explaining why it happened in the first place.

20 thoughts on “The lure of SCOAN- a 90s Evangelical Christian context

  1. @Kate,

    I am very pleased and happy that there other people like you have tested the spirits whether they are out of God. I really can relate to your entire article. Well, done. I hope that pro SCOAN people will also start to discern certain matters that have their darker side and investigate this in their time with God and pray that they start to understand what really is going on and what the true source of it all is. Just for your information Kate, the Pastor of the Toronto Church has been in the main church in Lagos. His picture is on the wall with T. B. Joshua. His name is John Arnott. Please let everyone investigate what really went on in John Arnott’s church and see the comparisons there.

    God bless,

  2. Quote from John Arnott,

    “So when you come to him tonight asking to be filled with the Holy Spirit, I don’t even want you to entertain the thought that you might get a counterfeit.”

    Arnott, Dec. 16, 1994

    Hmmm, I am not surprised, I wonder what the SCOANITES have to say about that, since his protrait holding hands with T.B. Joshua is hanging in the dining room on the wall in Lagos.

    Can they explain to me why they let such people in and have absolute NO discernment what actually the Holy Spirit is when you see such expressions. Secondly John Arnott and Todd Bentley are big friends. Please google Todd Bentley and his behaviour after the Lakeland Revival.

  3. Thanks Kate. This is a really useful assessment of how UK churches got involved. I remember Toronto and Pensacola and the impact they had on the church I was a member of. You’re right, there was so much excitement about what was happening that there was little real testing of the theology behind it. I do look back on those days and do wonder what was really going on.

  4. Here is another one eventually with John Arnott promoting it:

    Many christians have absolute no discernment what is real and what is not. It grieves me.

  5. This reminds me of the time when Jesus came and the Pharisees didn’t like him. Not saying that you’re wrong or anything but it seems that you’re not ready to accept change or God moving as He wills.

    Many problems in churches today is that they want to tell God what to do… it should be the other way around

    • Hi Jenson,

      Why do you think God gave us the Bible? It is our guide for life and the parameters in which we need to live our lives. All mainstream churches will agree that the Bible is the final authority on faith and it is what we use as a yardstick to measure things against. It says in the Bible what the fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit is. We can apply these texts to things we witness in the church and make a judgement (Yes – a judgement) whether they are from God or not.

      We know, for instance, that the Holy Spirit created order out of chaos (Gen 1.). We also know that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is self control. If then we see chaos and people not being able to control themselves we have to question whether it is the Holy Spirit or not.

      I know that the Holy Spirit can overwhelm us, i.e. we have to fall face down and worship because of the presence of God, but we have self control in the matter and there are no scenes of chaos. Moses at the burning bush being a good example. He was in the very presence of God, yet he didn’t fall back laughing, but he did have a conscious, obedient reaction.

      As Christians we have full freedom in Christ. God put the constraints of the Bible in place so we have a yardstick to test the spirits. Otherwise anything and everything goes under the banner of ‘accepting change’ or ‘constraining a move of God’. I wonder when Christendom will realise that not all moves and moves of God. TBJ being case in point.

      The riots in London is quite an eye opener. Kids running wild without any boundaries. Parents who love their children impose boundaries and discipline them when they step outside the set boundaries. The same way the Bible is our Father’s loving set of boundaries. Should we the ones to rebel against it at every step?

  6. @Someone

    You say many things and I agree with most of what you say.
    Answer this quickly:

    Mark 16:17-18
    And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

    Can you tell me where the believers are? if these are the signs… we should look out for it. Yes, we should be careful of false prophets and teachers. But if you claim that you experienced God’s power… what did that power do?

    And can you name true “believers” Jesus talked about that we should look out for? If there’s no sign… then it’s questionable… don’t you agree?

    • In addition to Someone’s excellent response above, another thing to point out is that even if you do want to judge the genuineness of a ministry by the Mark 16:17-18 standard, SCOAN would actually fall short, or if you were to include SCOAN you would have to conclude that there was only one “believer”, TB Joshua. TB Joshua is the one who performs the miracles at SCOAN (and perhaps the 3 wise men), others just administrate his healing power through the anointed water. So even if you use that verse as a hallmark of genuine believers (which you shouldn’t!), and you accept TB Joshua’s miracles as being genuine (which many aren’t) you still don’t find the place teeming with believers fitting this description!

  7. Hi Jenson,
    Thanks for your reply. You’ve asked a lot of questions and I’ll attempt to answer them as briefly as possible.

    “Can you tell me where the believers are?”
    I think that you will agree that not every Christian cast out demons, not every Christian pick up snakes, drink deadly stuff and recover. That is why we cannot look at this text (and any other scripture in the Bible for that matter) in isolation. We should always interpret the Scripture in light of the whole Bible. Perhaps a better way to determine whether someone is a believer or not is John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. ?

    “But if you claim that you experienced God’s power… what did that power do?”
    Simply put – I was reborn. I was a mess and then, through the power of the Holy Spirit I was changed, made new, brought to true life. I think it is symptomatic of our society that we want to always have extreme experiences. As Christians we sometimes forget that the most extreme experience is to die spiritually to your old self and to be made new by the power of the HS. This is AMAZING, don’t you think?

    “And can you name true “believers” Jesus talked about that we should look out for? ”
    Not 100% sure what you mean by this question. Are you asking about preachers where we see these things happen? My question would be – Why run after what others are doing everywhere in the world? Is our relationship not between us and God? Love should follow all believers. And this is one of the reasons why I have such a big problem with TBJ (as well as many (not all) of the preachers of the Charismatic and Word of Faith movements) – there is not a lot of love. It is this black and white – “you’re either with us or against us”. It is very, very sad. I visited this little church on Sunday. They had a few baptisms and there were testimonies of lives changed and a genuine, tangible love for one another. This is in stark contrast to my SCOAN experiences.

    “If there’s no sign… then it’s questionable… don’t you agree?”
    To sum up what I have said so far… The verse you quoted does not paint the full picture. I’ve never stepped on a snake or drank poison… Should I do this to prove that I’m a real Christian? Surely not? It is very dangerous to look for this power you speak of in outward manifestations only… please don’t forget the amazing work of the HS in our lives.

    Also – another thing to briefly ask here… At what point do people start idolizing a power rather than the giver of this power? I think in many places in the world people obsess about the power of the Holy Spirit rather than worshipping the Trinity. Jesus and The Father becomes secondary and tertiary to this power. Are we running after experiences or are we truly seeking God?

  8. @ Someone

    Thanks for attempting to answer my questions, but your answers weren’t clear. Or maybe i didn’t ask the questions clearly?

    I didn’t say that every Christian should cast out demons and heal the sick. I said that is the sign we should look for when we’re looking for believers. As Jesus mentioned clearly.

    If you read the new testament, I’m sure you did many times. The power and signs I’m talking about is not humanly possible. I have heard many people’s life changing through doctors… psychologists… rehab… etc.

    The bible says that only faith pleases God right? Faith demands for the impossible. The power I’m talking about is … dividing the red sea… walking on water… blind eyes opening… crippled people walking.

    TBJ’s quote: “The book of acts is not just mere history but a pattern of what Christ wants the church to be like today.”

    When Jesus walked on earth… everywhere He was… there was “signs”. Signs beyond human comprehension. After Jesus died and rose again… Where the apostles walked there were “signs” too.

    Where’s the “signs” today?

    2 Tim 3:5 “having a form of godliness but denying its power”. This seems to be happening all around.

    • Hi Jenson.

      I was saying that if you quote Mark 16:17-18 without reading it within the context of the Bible as a whole you could be at risk of not seeing the full picture.

      To back this up:
      1. We cannot only use ‘signs’ to measure whether someone is a believer or not. Jesus said in Matthew 16:4 “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. Jesus then left them and went away.” We need to examine our hearts and ask why we are looking for a sign. If you are following signs you may as well go to India and find yourself a guru… Some of their signs are more impressive than TBJ. It cannot ONLY be signs and wonders.
      2. John 13:35 “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. ? See also 1 Jn 3:13. This is the definitive answer.
      3. Also – if we can only judge whether a believer is true or not by Mark 16:17-18, then why does Jesus say that “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ in Matthew 7:22-23? Only SOME who perform miracles and cast out demons are true believers and not everyone. It is VERY, VERY important to make this distinctions otherwise you will end up sitting at the feet of a guru in India. We need to therefore test the spirits as the Bible instruct.

      Yes – signs will follow believers, but not always and not everyone. I haven’t performed a miracle or cast out a demon. Am I therefore not a believer? That would be a very weird way of looking at things.

      Where’s the “signs” today?
      I will again state that we miss the greatest sign of all… The work of the Holy Spirit within the lives of people to bring about salvation. The greatest miracle of all!

      Is that clearer? As you can see it is not as simple as you may suggest. Because of Time and the need for brevity I cannot go into every single verse in the Bible, but there are more about love, he indwelling of the HS, gifts of the Spirit etc etc that point to where/who believers are…

  9. @ Ian and Someone,

    Very well explained. For Jenson to contemplate: Most people look at “a” manifestation and attribute it automatically to God, how chaotic and strange it is, they still do it. That is where they make their error. What you said about God not an author of chaos and confusion, it is very much debatable what the moves of God are. By their fruits you shall know them, says the scripture and many “results” are never tested on long term basis. The evidence is when you look at many of those ministers in the videos, you will see that they do not give any advantages or things to hang your faith upon to. For me it is clear that this is the spiritual deception that goes around the globe.

    I never would put down a true move of God, but stories with 10 foot tall female angels named Emma is never going to stick on me and so it should not on others. For everyones informations, Angels DO NOT have any gender.Look it up in the bible. The early church fathers were also confronted with it and rejected anything that came from angelic revelations, yet today’s ministers go around and preach about this. Enough to discern that it is invalid revelation and not from God. The Word of God is your testing ground and all these “manifestations” is found wanting in that kind of form of a so called move of God.

    As last, yes God does heal, deliver and does the miraculous, but there is a true Hallmark that make a move of God genuine, it is glorifying Jesus, God and it is without chaos and mess and strange phenomena as you see there. Just go back to the bible and see how Jesus operates, no mess, no chaos, angel worship, no long debates with demons why they are there or what they have done.

  10. @ Someone,

    “Also – another thing to briefly ask here… At what point do people start idolizing a power rather than the giver of this power? I think in many places in the world people obsess about the power of the Holy Spirit rather than worshipping the Trinity. Jesus and The Father becomes secondary and tertiary to this power. Are we running after experiences or are we truly seeking God?”

    Very well said. True, True, True. Except one small thing, Instead of using the word Trinity, use “The Triune God” as in The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Thanks. The word Trinity comes from Catholicism. It does not exactly mean the same. Please have a look around about it. 😉

    And one other thing to Soe, Only God is Holy.

    That is why the Four Beasts will sing Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord in Revelation. Revelation 4:8 And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.

    There is no such thing as a “Holy Servant”. Every human is just a plain servant including T.B.Joshua and everyone else is. God does not share His Glory with anyone, fyi. It is up to us to be perfect with God. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 18:13 KJV

    • Sorry, Nanardi. I have to disagree. A guy called Tertullian was the first to use it – a century before the First Council of Nicaea in 325.
      I have as many problems with Catholic doctrine as the next person, but this is taking it too far.
      It is akin to saying that we shouldn’t use a word like ‘zenith’ which just happens to come from from astronomy texts from medieval Islam.
      I’m afraid that I find comments such as quite extremist and not useful to the wider discussion re TBJ.

      The rest I agree with, i.e. the Holy bits.

  11. @someone

    “We can apply these texts to
    things we witness in the church and make a judgement (Yes – a judgement) whether they
    are from God or not”.

    I don’t disagree with you, just that your statement lacks one other ingredient. so please answer this quickly:

    1. Wasn’t it scriptural texts the pharisees applied to what they witnessed in Jesus ministry to judge wrongly that he wasn’t from God and that he was guilty of breaking God’s commands?

    2.What biblical text would paul have applied to the the slave girl’s campaign for him to discern the spirit by which she spoke?

    3. What biblical text would peter have applied to annanias and his wife’s confession to tell they were lying to the spirit?

    My point is;
    Not only must we have God’s word to discern the truth, we must have God’s spirit. Gods word can be gotten by careful study, but His spirit is a gift from him to all who have met the condition given in God’s word for salvation.

    Hence another question:
    4. Are you telling us now that you are speaking by God’s spirit?

    Not at all meaning we shouldn’t use the word’ but why no mention of the holy spirit- the one who guides us into all truth?

    @ naradi and someone

    In saying” Gods holy servants (one of whom TB Joshua to my discernment unmistakably is) in the previous post; I am not wrong –
    The bible makes it clear that God’s apostles and prophets are holy:

    ” which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit”. – Ephesians 3:5

    Again:” that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, – II Peter 3:2

    it is also written in exodus 22:31″-and ye shall be holy men unto me…”

    Even the women who hoped in God were called holy: For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, – I Peter 3:5

    In 2peter 1:21 it says: for prophecy never had its origin in the will of man but holy men spoke from God as they were carried along by the holy spirit. It would be needless quoting other verses though plenty of them exist.

    In summary, when the holyspirit takes up residence within us- he aids us in developing a holy character- thus making us holy as He is holy- you must first try to understand simple truths like this within human understanding, if you are going to be able to discern the truth of the reality of the happenings in scoan which are beyond human comprehension.

    @ jenson, thanks for your comments above,I honestly believed this post was a bit of a non- issue till I saw your comments, we may not agree on everything but we sure do on most, I really believe you are one of the few on this site with clearer insight into revealed truths.


    • I will reply to the question directed at me. Apologies for keeping this short, but I really don’t have time to reply to every question in detail.

      I will get right down to your last question – which seems to be the conclusion of your questions; “Are you telling us now that you are speaking by God’s spirit. Not at all meaning we shouldn’t use the word’ but why no mention of the holy spirit- the one who guides us into all truth?”.

      No sinister reason for not mentioning the HS. Of course He guides every Spirit filled believer in every aspect of our lives. My points still stand.

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