Part 2- Emotional Manipulation-Creating a Genuine Addiction?

The manipulation and potential for addiction begins at the World Race training camp.

This is where some parents will lose children to a different spirit.  It is here that those children will walk away from the faith in which they have been raised. 

In a blog titled, Ecstasy and the Holy Spirit, this Racer had a “worship” induced experience that she related to her own personal experience with the drug Ecstasy. She readily admits to having no Biblical basis for what she experienced, nor does it seem that AIM leadership offered her one. This fact completely disqualifies the experience as being from God as it is not tied to truths revealed in His inspired Word.  

Again, we reiterate that we are concerned with what this organization and leadership are teaching and with the manufactured experience they create apart from any truth.  We have genuine concern for this young girl.  She recalls in her post:

“So at training camp we had a “Holy Spirit night” I just went in thinking it was another worship session with a message like the rest. I loved worship at training camp, we would worship for hours & I truly connected to Jesus in a way I never had before. It was amazing. But still, I had never experienced anything like this before.”

“Holy Spirit night”??  This is the first evidence of a manufactured experience.  There is nowhere in scripture where we are instructed to order the Holy Spirit to come at a set time and place.  

“After a quick message about who the Holy Spirit is (He’s God by the way, His spirit). The speaker said, but let’s stop talking about him, why don’t we just experience him & let him show himself to us. Don’t be afraid, the Holy Spirit is a gentleman

Notice that the focus is NOT on Scripture but on experience.  Also note the odd extra-biblical terminology about the Holy Spirit being a “gentleman.”  We will comment further on that later.

“Then the speaker asked the whole room to sit down, close our eyes & pray. A leader would come around, touch our shoulder & say a prayer over us. We’re going to invite the Holy Spirit here tonight basically.

After a while of sitting there I gradually stood up & joined in the singing. I was so peaceful I could have stood there forever. I remember just having my eyes closed most of the time because being there in his presence was so incredibly good I didn’t even want to open my eyes to distraction.

There were times I would lift my hands up so high but then again, times where they were completely by my side basking in his presence. Soaking up every little moment.

And yes, I truly didn’t want it to end. And I wasn’t ready when it did.

After who knows how much time (maybe 2 hours?) the band wrapped up & our team of 45 odd were asked to move into another room for a meeting.

So we all spilled outside & started making our way to another room. I just remember being SO dazed I could hardly walk straight. I could hardly hold a conversation, I would just smile at people walking past & they would smile at me. The girl I was walking next too said “wow everyone is still so full of the spirit” and I knew exactly what she meant. How strange this feeling! How amazing & strange.”

The Holy Spirit indwells all true believers, thus, if this were a gathering of Christians, there would be no need to “invite” Him to be there.

There is NOT ONE testimony in Scripture of this being a normal response to worship.  This is a huge red flag.

“Then when we got into the room & sat down, again I could hardly concentrate on what was happening; I was still just sitting there feeling on cloud nine. I would have been completely happy just stroking the person next to me. But its ok, I didn’t!

It took a good hour or more after that session for me to start feeling normal. And by normal I mean, not incredibly high on His spirit.

The whole point of this story is to say, it was ecstasy. Complete ecstasy. I spent the next day or so quizzing as many people as I could about this feeling, some understood, some didn’t. Maybe some felt something different to me but still amazing?

Anyway, after having MANY drugs in past, I know what pure ecstasy feels like. Notttttthing compared to the feeling that night. But that is the closest feeling I can relate it to.”

Note the self-centered focus here.  As we have stated in other posts, the role of the Holy Spirit is to point us to the finished redemptive work of Christ on the cross.  Although all believers are indwelled with the Spirit, being filled with the Holy Spirit is a continual process of mortifying our sinful flesh as we submit to Him, abide in Him, and obey His word.  The result is our ongoing sanctification; growing in holiness and becoming more and more like Christ.  All of this results in God being glorified.  

This post mentions nothing about the redemptive work of Christ or the glory of God.  It is entirely centered on the FEELING that was obtained, a feeling likened to that of a mind-altering drug.  It is clear that the spirit who visited this Racer was not the true Holy Spirit.  

“So I have wondered heaps about this… My totally un-theologically-tested or justified thoughts are…

God made us. He made us to feel feelings. He made every part of our body. If He wants us to feel something, He can make that happen.”

Demons can easily do this otherwise we would not be warned to “test the Spirits” John 4:1.  We are also warned in 2 Cor 11:14, “…for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” 

“Yes man made ecstasy, to try & replicate a feeling that only God can give properly. That of course, will ultimately lead to self-destruction.

And I think God wanted to show me that. He is the creator of us, so powerful that just being in His presence can saturate you in ecstasy. If He wants too!

I don’t think this is a thing that will happen all the time. I might become an addict if so… But it certainly is a thing I’ll be striving for each time I head into worship now. Striving just to connect deeper & deeper with his presence. I can’t wait to share this with people all over the world, some who won’t even speak the same language as me. We will all understand Gods spirit. And I just thank Him for showing me this side of Him, how beautiful & surprizing.”

She has been told a lie.  She has been taught to experience something demonic.  Only the redeemed have God’s spirit.

JD Hall, pastor and writer on Pulpit and Pen, is also an addictions counselor, after reading this Racer’s blog advised,

“{this} sounds like addiction-transfer, which is very common for addicts and alcoholics. It’s when you give up one mind-altering addiction for another. This one may not be chemical in nature, but is still mind-expanding and probably helps (so it seems) with dopamine restriction in the brain. When, in fact, it’s demonic.”

In Part 1, we mentioned that there is potentially a genuine addictive element to these spiritual experiences.  The Racer admitted that she will seek this more and could “become an addict”. This knowledge begins to unravel why so many are drawn into this cult-like organization, why they cannot leave, and why so many seem to be unable to process what they have seen and experienced.  The leaders are creating an frightening avenue for Satanic deception. 

We continue to contend that if the pure Gospel were evident we would be having a different discussion about manifestations of the Holy Spirit.  However, there is no Gospel (see other posts on this) so we can be confident that the Holy Spirit is not at work here in man-made worship experiences that are void of any Truth. 

Here are a few sources related to the addictive possibilities of a manipulated religious experience, specifically “centering prayer”, which is synonymous with Seth’s Listening Prayer book that the Racers are required to read.

  • “the “Christian” mysticism taught in Spiritual Formation courses… is not Christian, and is in fact identical to classic occultic meditation practices taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, wicca, paganism, etc.  The technique is always the same: corraling one’s thoughts through the use of some device (mantra, breathing, etc.), entering into an altered state of consciousness, then “listening” to God.  This is not Christian.  This is what pagans do. And wiccans. And Buddhists. And Hindus.  

And just like with crack, a [Spiritual Formation/Listening Prayer] user will have to come back over and over again, trying to find that elusive high, trying to get another spiritual charge.  Christians “listen” to God through the study of scripture, not through using a mantra meditation to alter their state of consciousness so they can get a little spiritual “bump” from God.”

Thomas Merton said, “Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative(listening) prayer] which no one knows anything about?” (Thomas Merton, from a letter he wrote to fellow mystic Matthew Fox) The thing that Merton (like all mystics before him and since) didn’t understand is that mystical meditation is far more dangerous than drugs. Entering into an altered state of consciousness is playing with spiritual dynamite, and not in a good way. source


  • A study from Philadelphia’s Jefferson Myrna Brind Center’s shows,

“Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg has used brain imaging to study the brains of nuns in prayer and found that the images of brain activities, especially blood flow to certain areas, were very similar to those in psychedelic drug users. He also found that the changes in the brain caused by both prayers and psychedelics were permanent.”

In a book he wrote, Andrew shows, “Through his brain-scan studies on Brazilian psychic mediums, Sufi mystics, Buddhist meditators, Franciscan nuns, Pentecostals, and participants in secular spirituality rituals, Newberg has discovered the specific neurological mechanisms associated with the enlightenment experience—and how we might activate those circuits in our own brains.”

When Newberg scanned the brains of nuns and Buddhists undergoing mystical experiences, they reported feelings of timelessness, spacelessness, and self-transcendence. Newberg believes a cause of these feelings is the reduced activity he saw in their parietal lobes, the orientation area of the brain responsible for perceiving three-dimensional objects in space. A meditator may experience a sense of oneness with all living things or unity because the reduced activity blurs the perceived lines between the meditator and other objects.”

We are left to ask the question…Would the true Holy Spirit of God mimic false religions??

The Racers are taught “Listening Prayer” which is an unbiblical practice, have a steady diet of hyped up worship sessions, have left the security of their church and their families, and are then told to abandon everything.

“One major lesson World Racers learn is abandonment – of their possessions, their right to personal space, and even control of their schedules. Some Racers have this lesson forced on them by circumstances during the Race.”  

AIM creates an environment that can lead to mind altered states.  They then convince Racers that God is “speaking” and is leading them to do things they wouldn’t otherwise do.  This is cultic manipulation.

At Adventures in Missions, Seth Barnes has set himself up as Spiritual Father.  Those under him that teach, lead, and prophesy over the hundreds of young people in this demonic experience should be duly warned by the Savior Himself.

Jesus said, “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matt 18:6

True believers have the Holy Spirit residing in them.  Demons cannot inhabit a truly redeemed person. 

“What harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” 2 Cor 6:15-16. 

At the time of our salvation we are delivered from and protected from the indwelling of Satan.

Col 1:13, “ He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,  in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” 

We can, however, be deceived. We must each examine our own faith to know if it is genuine, the books of James and 1 John were written for this purpose. 2 Cor 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Jonathan Edwards says, “Scripture describes conversion in terms which imply or signify a change of nature: being born again, becoming new creatures, rising from the dead, being renewed in the spirit of the mind, dying to sin and living to righteousness, putting off the old man and putting on the new, becoming partakers of the divine nature, and so on…In Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither a dramatic experience nor a quiet one, neither a wonderful testimony nor a dull one, counts for anything. The only thing that counts is a new creation.” (The Experience That Counts! p. 99).

This article on the counterfeit Holy Spirit is very informative. 

“So – what is the true Holy Spirit and how does it function? All true Christians are indwelt with the Holy Spirit at the moment of conversion. When this happens, the Holy Spirit comes to live and dwell inside each newly born-again Christian until their time on this earth is over. The Holy Spirit has many functions, among them bringing conviction over sin and illuminating Scripture.

False religions do not have this indwelling of the Holy Spirit taking place within their adherents. So what’s a Devil to do? Well, he’ll just do what he’s always done, and rather successfully at that: create some kind of counterfeit experience to mimic a real blessing given by God to true Christians… The first meditation I ever did at age 20 left me utterly convinced that I had experienced the presence of God. In hindsight, I believe that this encounter truly was supernatural. The Bible tells us that Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). So I ask you: would Satan be so bold as to actually pretend to be God? Of course he would. He’s no gentleman.”

Ironically, this is the terminology the Racer above used!  Satan’s lies would be to make us believe he is.

“It’s not like he would say to himself, “Well, that would be deceitful, I can’t do that!” More like this: “That’s deceitful – awesome!! I wonder how many times I could trick people into thinking they’re encountering God before somebody starts to catch on?” And Satan was more than happy to give me an “experience” if it would turn me away from the one true God.  Something else happened during my first meditation that I didn’t realize until years later. I came out of that FIRST meditation session with an altered worldview

Here is a testimony of a man who practiced this.

“Before I became a Christian I was involved in the occult.  One of the practices I would undergo when trying to contact the spiritual realm and/or trying to receive some mystical experience would be to empty my mind, remain motionless, and completely open myself up to receive whatever would come.  Essentially, I was seeking an altered state of consciousness and contact with the spiritual world.  This is one of the hallmarks of occult practices and it opens the person to demonic contact.

This centering, this emptying of the mind was a physical and mental process of stillness, waiting, non-thinking, and expecting to have a spiritual experience.  It worked.  Using these techniques I have seen lights move in darkness, a bright yellow cross materialize out of thin air, and I’ve heard voices calling me from the darkness.  I’m not exaggerating.  I was not on drugs, medicated, drinking, or sleep deprived.  I definitely contacted something in the spirit realm.  But, it wasn’t God.”

God wants us to pray to Him through his Son, Jesus Christ, as we meditate on God’s word.  We are not to empty our mind and “feel” whatever we may.  Obviously this can manufacture a false and potentially demonic emotion.

We are commanded to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, John 4:23, consisting of a proper heart attitude and consistent with the revealed Scripture, centered on Christ.

The true Holy Spirit would never affirm error, thus these “experiences” are not centered on truth.  We rarely see Christ magnified in any of the Racers blogs.  This is an obvious warning sign.

Final thoughts from this testimony.  We echo this plea in our efforts to save others from the deception at AIM.

“My hope is that the young people there who are much like I was will begin to question what they see and compare it with what the scripture actually says…not how Mike Bickle (or Seth Barnes) twists and teaches it…

and that they have the courage to identify it and reject it. Those who oppose IHOP (AIM) and speak out typically experience some kind of consequences or backlash.

People are a commodity there. They are traded. When wounded ones leave, IHOP (AIM) leadership doesn’t sweat over it…new and unsuspecting people (RACERS) who are ignorant of their dangerous devices but are hungry for emotionally-driven experiences and spiritual highs will come back in the same door the others left. It’s a revolving door of deception.”

Deceptive Experience

On his blog Seth Barnes writes,

“The problem is, the Bible is a static set of words on a page. To understand them and form beliefs around them, you can’t escape the need to interpret the Bible. And when you interpret the Bible, you do so in part based on your experience…More often than not, we don’t believe ourselves into better experience, we experience our way into a new way of believing.”

In essence he is saying that experience trumps theology. 

God’s word is not static. 

Heb 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

We are not told to have experience, we are told to know Scripture for wisdom. We are also told to be careful to interpret accurately. 

2 Tim 3:15 “how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

2 Tim 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

Experience is not a test for truth, we will give an account to the Lord Jesus based on the truth of Word of God revealed in Scripture, not our experience. How do we interpret Scripture with experience if we are repeatedly warned that false teachers will show us “experience” to lead people astray? 

Missionaries spending time with Racers noted, 

“They are sincere in wanting to serve the Lord with their lives. It looks to me like they are slowly and deliberately being led astray. They don’t have a Bible study they do, but they journal what God speaks to them in the silence….My heart goes out to these young people. Some are true born again believers and I believe they will see the truth and be led by God’s Holy Spirit; but some of these young people are in the process of seeking the truth, of seeking God and have not yet been born again spiritually in Christ Jesus, these will be led by deceiving spirits. The church needs to be protecting these young people.

Matt 24:24 “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.”

Matt 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'”

Forget the Bible Seth says,

“A tip – if you’re discipling a new believer, don’t give them some kind of devotional book to teach them basic theology. And please, don’t tell them to “read through the Bible in a year.” If you think about it, it probably didn’t do too much for you, and it probably won’t do much to stir up life in a new believer either.Please don’t read Romans or Galatians.  It’s great theology and essential reading at some point, but first, wrestle with the question: “Who is this guy I am supposed to be following?”  Jesus is a radical.  He won’t be tamed or dumbed down. Following him is hard enough without requiring disciples to study theology.  First learn what he says and do what he says.  Then once you have that down, move on to what other people say about him.

This is in direct opposition with Scripture. Is he suggesting Christ is “dumbed down” in the Scriptures? Are we to teach new believers based on our supposed experience? How will they know the Christ they are submitting to?

2 Tim 31;16-17 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

1 Tim 4:2-4 “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Even Jesus used the Scriptures to explain who He was to his disciples.

Luke 21:24 “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Seth suggests that the apostolic writing’s  are less God’s Word, (“what other people say about Him”).  He also misses the fact that a true disciple of Christ will long to read and study His entire Word…not as a requirement! 

Psalm 119:40 “Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!”.

Does Seth believe we are divine? he writes,

“How does God speak? He spoke through Jesus and he continues to speak thru men and women. We are his word. The word made flesh. It is the magic of the incarnation. The word is made flesh every day. We are his word. Until we enter another person’s world and speak the language of their heart, God lacks the language to speak to them.”

We are his ambassadors to share the Good News of salvation offered to sinners through the blood of Christ only known through the revealed Word in Scripture and Jesus Christ incarnate, we are not the Word made flesh, that is Christ’s privilege alone. We are given a new nature and adopted as beloved children, but we are not divine, nor equal with Christ.

2 Cor 5:17-20 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Is this the simple message of Jesus? Seth says

“We must recognize that God wants us, his creatures, to be happy and gives us a great deal of latitude….Spiritual dominion over evil is the goal that we’ve been given as we interface with an unbelieving world.”

Did Christ suffer so we could be happy?  Note the key words of the Gospel are not in this post.

Evaluating  Todd Bentley’s Lakeland Revival,  Seth writes,
“Others were greatly encouraged and are now growing by leaps and bounds spiritually because of what they experienced.Still, there was excess (huge understatement )  And to be fair, revivals are often that way – when you make pots on a pottery wheel, a lot of excess clay is going to fly off the wheel.  God doesn’t order up tidy ceremonies when he’s dealing with affairs of the heart. He often seems to be more concerned with our healing than he is with our theology.”


Clearly experience wins out over any Biblical standard.

**See the post, titled Mentors, Influences, Praiseworthy men for more info on Todd Bentley