Case Quote: “They’re Asking Questions Because Something is Wrong with their Heart”.

Since leaving the message, one thing I have occasionally done is to listen to archived sermons from various churches and ministries. I don’t do it to load up on criticism or document my greivances. I do it because I want to remain personally aware of the mood in message churches – and what issues occupy the pulpits. As I still get questions from people, at minimum, I want to be informed.

I recently listened to a service where a message minister said:

“You come to distractors of this message. They come to question, after question, after question. They’re not asking questions because they want to believe. They’re asking questions because something is wrong with their heart. If they could get their heart questions settled, then all these other questions would just disappear.”

(Bro. Timothy Pruitt, December 4th, 2019,  – around 1:05:00).

I don’t like cherry picking quotes.  I don’t  feel one phrase or sentence fully characterizes the depth of what a person thinks on a subject.  There is a fuller context that usually deserves to be listened to. As a single sentence within an entire sermon exhorting the church to believe without reasoning or questioning (as former message believers have done),  I feel this is a perfect example of my immense concern for what the message leaders do. When fallacy and mental manipulation become a primary tool in the preacher’s toolbox, it’s abhorrent.  I have nothing personal against the speaker, nor is it there any reason in particular I picked this sermon, other than it contained a useful example.  I though it would be helpful to use a quote like this, should there be someone who hears it while wrestling under the heavy weight of their concerns.

Faith vs Reasoning

I understand the conundrum – how does one have faith if it depends on reasoning? And how does one reason if one depends upon faith? I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. However, in the case of the message, stigma about ‘reasoning’ is often weaponized against the people to prevent them from asking questions.  Frequently, believers are guided through a series of cognitive hoops (reasonings) designed to induce shame and fear for moments of questioning. The tactics employed are often “fallacies” – which are faulty arguments deceptively made to sound better than they actually are.  These are arguments designed to avoid or distract from issues, not to answer them.

Let’s break down the above quote.

“They’re not asking questions because they want to believe.”

This was referring to those who are ‘detractors’. Fair enough. Clearly, those who have left and speak about it no longer believe the message. Their questions aren’t asked with expectation of an answer that will restore their belief.  They’ve been through the gamut long enough to know the message ministers/believers have no good answers, if they bothered to try at all. By asking questions, it helps expose this fact, and it continues to help others realize this problem too.

When the “detractors” first began asking the questions – were they already unbelievers with a wrong heart? Were they believers that felt sincerely shocked when reading / listening to what appeared to be concerning statements, errors from a man they esteemed to be God’s prophet? Were their questions valid concerns that needed to be sincerely and delicately answered? When their questions were asked – how were their questions met or answered?

Given that this sermon is being passionately delivered to a church of ‘message believers’, though referencing the ‘detractors’, it will serve as a scarecrow to sternly warn that asking questions about the prophet will place their spiritual estate in jeopardy. Lest they also become like those who are “not asking questions because they want to believe” – but rather because of their unbelief. If someone were sitting in the congregation that day with a sincere question, how safe does it feel to ask a question? How safe is it to even disclose that they’ve been thinking or reading about the issues? What will the reprecussion be?

As someone who sat in church listening to these situations play out – let me take you through the thought process I experienced. I was aware that the people who were ‘asking questions’ were being labelled as trouble-makers. I could see our congregation was disturbed knowing we had sheep in the flock that might actually be wolves. There was tension in the conversations and meetings between church elders. I was personally asked questions from  ‘the detractors’ in our group. The problem was, in good conscience, I didn’t have answers. I dug for them – and found the questions were based on genuinely valid concerns. I could dismiss them – or I could acknowledge that I saw the concern. 

Rather than dismissing them, I encouraged the individuals to keep coming to church – as I looked to the elders to help stabilize what I could not.  Alarming to me, it didn’t appear the questions were being faced or addressed. Not in our church. Not in any church. They were being brushed under the carpet using statements similar to the above example.

As one of the church leaders, I realized if I were to start verbally asking questions myself as though they were my own – then I would be exposing myself as a ‘trouble-maker’ too. I had several growing concerns. First – it might be perceived that I was listening to the doubters too much, because I began to have the same questions. Secondly – perhaps I wasn’t a strong enough believer/leader, as I didn’t seem to have the wisdom to answer the questions myself, nor the faith to withstand them. Thirdly, my faith was possibly compromised, because I was more concerned with the attitude and reaction of the believers than with the “questioners”.

There was no appetite in the church to answer questions, only to shut up or remove people. They were being spoken about and treated as if they were our enemy. If those people were ‘the enemy’ for asking difficult questions that deserved reasonable answers, then I could only conclude – so was I.

But it made me stay quiet while I observed and worked though things on my own.

“They’re asking questions because something is wrong with their heart”.

I would argue that in most cases (as it was for me) it is not rebellion, nor weakness, nor malice, nor desire to depart that inspires questions. Usually, it is genuine concern or confusion about something that doesn’t appear to make sense. With an answer, one could just go back to business as usual, per se. 

However, if a question is met with “something is wrong with your heart” – it turns focus away from the the question, bypasses the need for an answer, and instead it places it on the individual who is asking. It becomes an act of betrayal or a spiritual fault for not believing completely.  There is a script of doctrinal antidotes which can be deployed for further effect.  “You’ve stopped to listen to the serpent, like Eve in the midst of the garden”. “You’ve acted like the Pharisees, denying the acts of Jesus Christ himself”. “You’ve acted like the denominational christians, denying the vindicated word of our prophet”. It’s you – it’s your fault – you don’t have the right spirit, and your heart is wrong for asking.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone sitting listening to these statements. The minister is verbally casting a questioner as an individual with “heart issues”. We don’t naturally think of these situations in terms of psychology – but indeed, the mind of each listener (including the faithful believer) is being conditioned and impacted.

There is immense pressure to behave in the expected way and to show solidarity and agreement. But it also forces others to conceal their questions by ‘acting’ in solidarity too. In a chorus of amens, you have a room full of “us”, the faithful and uncompromised who are now pitted against “them”, any of the questioners.  Should there by any soul in the congregation who has the slightest grain of a question, they will feel like an imposter who is at risk of being sniffed out by the spiritual watchdogs.

The outcome is that conversation becomes nearly impossible. It forces questions to go underground – and people like me will sometimes receive their emails asking for my thoughts. Most likely of all – it puts such immense pressure that the easiest solution is to shut off their thinking and join the chorus singing ‘amen’ to every word.  Questions die in the hearts of many because of hopelessness and fear. To this day – I think there are a great many people who are nodding their head and singing the chorus – not because the ministers have answered their concerns- but rather, they were too afraid to risk experiencing what happens if they raise a flag of concern.

“If they could get their heart questions settled, then all these other questions would just disappear.”

If settling a” heart question” means throwing aside reasoning, ignoring the unanswered questions, surrendering completely, and recommitting to the message (embracing the message of the hour and receiving the holy ghost) – then yes, the questions can’t remain. They will have to disappear.  But so will the freedom to ask questions.

James Rozak

Creator of Morning Mercy & Former Message Associate Pastor.

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4 Responses

  1. Wendy Smith says:

    Thank you! Thank you! People are still coming out of the message.

  2. Saul Gutierrez says:

    No entiendo cual es el propósito de tu sitio porque no nos llevas a ninguna Escritura que responda las preguntas que tenemos. Tu sitio parece una cantina de borrachos donde todos los adoloridos por los problemas con sus mujeres los hace sentirse indentificados, pero no hay salida para niguno. ASí que escuchan siempre canciones de adoloridos, se la pasan apacentandose unos a otros contandose sus problemas. Y creyendo que mal de mucho es consuelo de Tontos.
    Para empezar la gran mayoría de salidos del mensaje son Americanos, una cultura que se ha caracterizado por creer cualquier cosa, y de USA han salido las mas vergonzosas y ridículas personificaciones del Evangelio.
    Que estés hablando paginas y paginas de lo que te pasó o les pasó a otros no arregla nada, no es tu testimonio el importante, es el testimonio de Jesucristo el que salva las vidas. Uno entra a tu sitio pensando que va a encontrar respuestas a cosas como casamiento y divorcio, al Nuevo nacimiento, a como entregar su vida cuando dones espirituales se estan manifestando en la vida de los creyentes, en cómo caminar en orden cuando de Dios se manifiestan profecías (que si tienen cumplimiento, porque en lo personal he visto a Dios hablarme los secretos más profundos de mi corazón y las intenciones que solo yo tenía para hacer pero Dios en misericordia y amor me habló para no hacerlo, entre muchas otras cosas). Pero entro a tu sitio como a los otros que recomiendas y sólo se la pasan criticado y criticando y criticando y demostrando cuán listos son para salirse del mal y no nos dan Escrituras para ver los “errores” del Mensaje ( que se supone es lo que quieren hacer, sacarnos del error ¿o no es así?)
    Creo que lo que les pasa a los Americanos es como los judíos de 1 Cor 1 que buscan señales o los griegos sabiduría, pero en mi vidaa y en la vida de varios de mis hermanos cercanos, así como mis hijos y familia, nunca les estuvimos revisando cuántos pelos tenía en las orejas el Hermano Branham, él dará cuentas delante de Dios. Pero desde siempre seguimos su ejemplo y su insistente “regresar a la Palabra” lo cual ha hecho que muchas vidas salieramos del pecado, abrieramos los ojos a los “falsos cristos” y siempre la Biblia ha sido nuestro guía y el mensaje nuestro complemento.
    Nosotros hemos vivido como dijo Pablo, “la Palabra de la Cruz” y ver a Jesucristo crucificado y resucitado en nuestras vidas”. Fuera de eso decir que tenemos la doctrina correcta no funciona, porque recuerdaquela doctrina errada se corrige, un mal espíritu NO, y de eso hemos visto mucho, la cosa principal es saber si es un mal espíritu por mal influencia o es un mal espíritu por predestinación. Aca, nadie está buscando señales (aunque siempre las hemos tenido desde nuestro encuentro con Jesucristo) ni sabiduría (eso es típico de los Americanos del Norte) Hemos buscado la Vida como principal vínculo de la vida de Dios y la hemos encontrado.
    Sinceramente no alcanzo a ver a donde quieren ir. Mucha amargura en su corazón y poca luz para los que no tienen luz y menos para los que ni siquiera conocen el mensaje, en vez de ser un refugio para cualquier alma que busca a Jesucristo, parece un hospital “solo” para veteranos de guerra, de otro tipo de heridos y hambrientos no aceptan, y parece que no tienen ni remedio para ellos, ( no sé si piensan que las denominaciones solitas los van a soltar o qué)
    Sus experiencias con malos pastores no es para crecer amargados, acá hemos tenido muchos malos pastores, pero también hemos tenido pastores que han demostrado el camino de la Cruz y el Calvario hasta el día de su muerte y su testimonio es tan fuerte en nuestras vidas que nos han dejado huellas en las arenas del tiempo. (aunque no lo crean todavía poddemos escribir biografías de grandes cristianos pero no en las grandes iglesias que les gustan a los Norteamericanos, hemos tenido testimonio en iglesias de 20 creyentes, donde el pastor por llevar la Palabra vivió meses con su familia en una camioneta chiquita y vivía de su trabajo a veces con 20 dolares a la semana y cuando había que ayudar a un necesitado, fuera del mensaje o no, conseguía hasta 700 dolares para sacarlo de su necesidad y luego se dedicaba a trabajar con sus manos para pagar la deuda y nunca dejaba de predicar en iglesias del mensaje o en grupos necesitados como los de Alcoholicos Anonimos o donde se necesitara.
    Errores siempre los va a ver en todos los siervos del Señor, ese es el escondedero de Dios ante el diablo y a la vez ese es el escondedero del diablo para mostrarle a los creyentes carnales y tibios los malos hombres de los cuales hay que alejarse. ¿o diganme de un profeta que no falló en la Biblia? Pero ustedes se fueron con los dichos, no con lo que quería decir.

    Ojalá se dediquen a difundir la Palabra de Dios en una Luz procedente de la Gloria de Dios y no solo a llenar paginas y paginas de sus grandes descubrimientos de los miles de errores de Branham, Cristo me mostró su vida y algo que nunca he visto en todas las denominaciones que he visitado que fue “Santidad, regresen a la Palabra y busquen revelación de Dios más que cualquier otra cosa” ( no dijo sabiduría, dijo revelación)
    Pero muchos ministros se han dedicado a decir que servir a Dios es seguir su sistema, es decir solo las cintas y que sabiduría humana es revelación de Dios.
    Pero no por eso voy a llenar a mis seres queridos de hiel(una raíz de amargura contamina a muchos) Aquí es donde se muestra si el Lirio de los Valles está en mi corazón, si crece en medio de la porquería.
    Dios les bendiga y quiera Dios los libre de ese espíritu americano de querer seguir siempre lo brilloso
    Atte Saúl Gtez

  3. James Rozak says:

    Greetings Saul Gutierrez,

    I appreciate that you wrote – and I understand your words. I am quite aware of the perception held against the “Americans”, as you mentioned in your writings. I would not argue against the fact that America has a very strong viewpoint, as do many places I have travelled to around the world. What you shared is a strong opinion (and a strong distaste for America) – and I can fairly respect it. None of that is relevant to the issues I have regarding William Branham.

    You began your writing by stating that you do not understand the purpose of my website. If I may also say, I have never met a message believer who does. However, for the thousands of people from across the world who have visited my website and reached out – they share the same concerns that I had – and they do understand. This is something that anyone who is leaving the message would understand very deeply. I am not a one-man church or an online evangelist, and I am not teaching doctrine or correcting William Branham’s. People who are leaving the message experience intense hurt, and they don’t understand why. I’m offering insight from my experience and understanding about these issues after many years. You are not someone who is leaving the message – so, of course you wouldn’t relate to or understand the things I am writing about.

    If you are not bothered by the multitudes of falsehoods, failed prophecies, ever-changing stories from a man who claimed to be the fulfilment of critical scriptures in the Bible, then we are different men. To me, these were not minor mistakes. This was not just counting the hairs in his ear. This was a man telling outright lies about himself, which people believed and retold as evidences and vindications to make him an Angel/Prophet/Voice of God to bring forth an elect bride. This is not just an “American” issue; if you visit any country with message churches, they uplift Branham with that same reverence (often, even more!) – while claiming to place the Bible first.

    I do not belittle your character; I do not doubt your experiences and passion for the gospel. I also don’t know how deeply and earnestly you have examined the issues about William Branham’s ministry. All I know is, it opened my eyes to many issues and concerns – and I speak about them with people who are concerned and need help understanding why it’s so hard to bear.

    If you are not concerned, and you do not wish to concern yourself with these issues… so be it. Why waste your energy visiting these websites when they offer nothing to you? While my website won’t make any sense to you because you cannot relate to it, there are thousands of people around the world who – even in your country – are concerned. These website are for those people.

    Blessings to you – I sincerely wish you well on your journey,

  4. Mike Chukwukeli says:

    Brother James, I quite relate with your writeup. I am presently in the middle of it all. The barefaced fact of the many twisted teachings of the Bible has hit me like a hurricane. It was emotionally devastating. I can’t explain the hurt I felt when I realized that the whole stuff of the WMB message was built on quicksands of false interpretations, dogmas and indoctrinations. It’s painful because I threw my whole self into believing the message. More painful because I am an Associate Pastor.

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