Willem J. Ouweneel

Emeritus hoogleraar




Willem J. Ouweneel

Emeritus hoogleraar




Blog Post

My Experiences with T.B. Joshua (II)

20/01/2024 Column


During the second visit, TBJ made me take part in the healing ministry at his church. This happened again during the third visit. He showed me how, according to him, I should ‘pull’ the disease, or the demons involved, out of HIV/AIDS victims. After a while, he entrusted an epilepsy patient to me. I prayed for the man and ‘pulled’ the disease out of him as instructed by TBJ, and TBJ said, ‘he is free’. He whispered in my ear, ‘Congratulations!’ I felt exhilarated, not because I was such a good healing minister – I was just a poor beginner – but because of the favor the Lord had given me. I cheered, and when we started singing – Lord, we lift Your Name on high – TBJ put a microphone in my hand, invited me up on stage and with the rest of the choir, he and I sang and danced as I – ‘motorically retarded’ as I am – had never danced before… What a wonderful moment of worship that was. All glory to God!

That always struck me about TBJ himself: if someone wanted to thank him or her for his or her healing, TBJ would always correct him or her, ‘I didn’t heal you, Jesus did that!’ He didn’t claim any credit for himself.

At the next meeting, a few days later, TBJ had me pray for a patient with tumors on her leg, and told me step by step what to do: purify and fill my own soul with the good things of Christ, lay my hands on her (without touching her), look her in the eyes – as if I were looking directly into the demon’s eyes – and pray for her in my heart with all the compassion of the Lord Jesus. I saw the power of the Holy Spirit come over her and push her down to the ground until TBJ said, ‘You are free.’ Then we came to the long line of HIV/AIDS patients. I had been watching these poor, weak and sick Africans since six o’clock in the morning when they were still waiting at the gate. There was one young woman whom the Lord held very close to my heart at that time. I felt so sorry for her because of her weakness and the sadness that radiated from her eyes. When we began to pray for the many HIV/AIDS patients, it was precisely this woman whom TBJ took from the large crowd of patients and entrusted to me with the task of praying for her. When I saw the joy in her eyes, I began to trust that she had been set free.

Curiously enough, in that same memorable year of 2002, as if in a crash course from the Lord, I independently met several other (extreme) charismatic leaders, who for me represented a strong warning against extreme charismatism, in the form of the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’. This involved the American Morris Cerullo (met in the Netherlands) and the Nigerian Bishop Abraham Chigbundu (met in Suriname). I will spare the reader how negative their performances seemed to me: it was pure charismagic and charismania, where everything seemed to revolve around money.

These kinds of experiences made me quite shy of the term ‘charismatic’, because this term includes a lot of wheat, but also a lot of chaff. In 2002, a Dutch preacher once said to me (well-intentioned) from the podium, ‘Welcome to the charismatic movement!’ After the meeting I said to him, ‘Do not do that anymore! I never want to belong to any “movement” again. I was not delivered from the confines of one movement to now end up in the confines of another movement.’ That’s how I felt it.

Fifth Visit to Lagos

My fifth visit to the SCOAN, in Lagos (4 to 22 July 2003; I was 59) was very special. Josien and her family had already been there for seven weeks when I arrived. I asked TBJ if I could attend the nightly disciples’ meetings, and he allowed me to do so. I received special strength to attend such a meeting of two or three hours on an average of five times a week, somewhere between half past twelve and half past five at night. These were special opportunities to not only better assess TBJ’s teaching, but also to observe his more ‘everyday’, human side.

The next Sunday I prayed for the sick, but I actually felt quite empty. In the subsequent meetings, I did not ask TBJ if I would join in prayer, and he said nothing either. I decided to pray in silence every day in church and to write down a new confession as soon as possible and bring it to the Lord, and to wait in the prayer line for TBJ’s ministry.

On Wednesday, July 16, around 9 p.m., among the hundreds of others seeking his ministry, I stood up when TBJ passed by. I had to extend my right hand, and he blessed it in exactly the same way as when he gave me an impartation on my first visit. Half an hour later, on his second round, TBJ gave all kinds of prophecies about his visitors, but to me he only said that he would speak to me privately.

The following Sunday, July 20, I was already expecting him to invite me again to test what the impartation had worked out. One of the ‘junior prophets’ and a healing minister from Uganda plus myself went down the long line and laid hands on the sick; each of us always took care of two sick people at the same time. To my pleasant surprise, I saw that my strength was back! Sick people fell to their knees and began to vomit out their powers of illness, others began to shake violently under the touch of God’s Spirit, epilepsy patients promptly had a fit, just like in Mark 9, and the demons left them. Sam H., a South African visitor who stood in the prayer line, said afterwards that he felt a rush of power through him when I laid hands on him.

Two days later was the day of my return trip to Amsterdam. In the early morning of July 22, at about half past three, during the disciples’ meeting, TBJ came back to what had happened on Sunday at the hand of ‘our father in the Lord, the professor’. Disciples testified of what they had observed; one rightly noted that ‘the professor’ seemed most surprised of all at the miraculous effect of his laying on of hands… Then TBJ made a serious speech about ‘retaining’ the anointing in your own country, about the necessary formation of spiritual ‘character’ and about a holy walk in life.

One of the things I still wasn’t very clear about was what exactly TBJ thought of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Some disciples seemed to think that you could only say you were baptized with the Spirit if you performed such miracles and signs as TBJ. I asked him point-blank, ‘Have I been baptized with the Holy Spirit?’ He responded in surprise, ‘Look at the ministry you performed on Sunday…’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but that was under the anointing of TBJ.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘the impartation did come through me, but it was the Lord who worked through you on Sunday and not me.’

‘But what about Billy Graham [American evangelist, 1918-2018]?’ I asked. ‘I know you have great respect for him. How can that be, if he does not do signs and wonders?’ TBJ replied, ‘Because he has received an anointing for a ministry as an evangelist, just as every servant of the Lord has an anointing for a certain service. There is nothing wrong with that. However, he could not be general overseer of a church, because then he would need an anointing in all areas. He doesn’t have that; that’s why there are so many sick people among his employees.’

Wow, that made me think… I thought about the thousands of church leaders in the Netherlands, and about the condition that TBJ believed had to be made: anointing in all areas! I sighed to myself. But I also realized that an ‘anointing in all areas’ was not in my path at all. I didn’t want to become general overseer of any church. What I wanted was more anointing on what I saw and see as my actual ministry: Bible interpretation.

On that occasion, TBJ gave me a copy of the Disciples’ Notebook, a bound book full of handwritten and copied notes from many disciple meetings, full of Bible teaching in loose telegram style. To my knowledge, he had never given that book to anyone who did not become his full-time disciple. The teaching I found in it was certainly not very profound, but I could not find any serious errors in it either.

Further Developments

During my sixth visit, from October 20 to 28, 2003, there were more blessings, but not so many truly new experiences. That was good, because it reinforced my belief that I had gradually finished learning at the Synagogue Church. New paths would open up for me. I hoped to return to TBJ’s church someday, but I had the feeling that I would rather have to visit new stations in life. TBJ himself would give me confirmation of this, as I will report.

I was there with brother Jan, who had been miraculously cured of a severe form of MS two years earlier in the Synagogue, but now had leg problems (not MS, according to the specialist). Partly because of the Dutch Evangelical TV broadcast about the healing of brother Jan and because of the intense criticism in his own congregation, he had become the target of serious spiritual battle. TBJ’s opponents, and ‘therefore’ also those of Jan, were constantly on the lookout to see whether Jan, and also his wife, who had also been cured of MS (not to mention both his parents and his eldest son, who had all been healed in Lagos), would possibly lose their healing again. Whenever Jan’s condition worsened, the Netherlands immediately became abuzz with rumors, including reports that he and his wife both had their MS back or were even dying. Jan simply ‘wasn’t allowed’ to be cured. That was extremely difficult for him; he paid for his recovery dearly, so to speak, and unfortunately became a lot sicker afterwards and died relatively young. TBJ told Jan in my presence – I had to translate the conversation – that he should fill his heart with positive Scripture teaching and not let all the spiritual battles pull him down. He quoted two verses: Luke 6:26 (“Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you” – so criticism is the usual destiny of the Lord’s servants) and 2 Timothy 3:12 (“Anyone who wants to live a godly life will suffer persecution”).

I donated my Dutch book Geneest de zieken! (English title: Heal the Sick!) to TBJ, even though he obviously couldn’t read it. Between many other activities, I had been working on this book for more than a year, which was to help myself find a theological basis for the Biblical ministry of healing and deliverance. In fact, the book was written at the Synagogue Churchin Lagos; that was where it was conceived (March 2002), that was where I had worked on it during subsequent visits, and that was where I had put the finishing touches to it during my fifth visit. The book was typical of my ministry: I would always remain primarily a Bible teacher, not a minister of healing or deliverance. God showed me that the power was there, but my task was different. I chose the title Heal the Sick! in accordance with the commandment of the Lord himself (Luke 10:8f.; Matt. 10:8; Mark 16:17f.).

In the meantime, I must say, I had gradually started to develop all kinds of objections to ‘Lagos’. For example, on my second visit to Lagos, TBJ asked me to write a book about his life, teachings and ministry. In retrospect, I should never have started doing so under the conditions he set, because he did not want me to publish it without his agreement with the text, but neither did he give me detailed answers to my many questions and did not accept any criticism of his ministry in the book. We also could not agree on certain doctrinal aspects. He did say, ‘There are things you know that I don’t know; just as there are things I know that you don’t know. I just have to think about those parts and pray about them to know what the Lord thinks of them.’ But I never heard anything about it again.That disappointed me; the book simply got bogged down because TBJ did not elaborate on my manuscript, but did ‘forbid’ me by telephone to publish it. His biggest problem seemed to be that he couldn’t seem to tolerate any criticism of his ministry in the book.