The Texas-born Pentecostal minister Paul Cain died at the age of 89 last week. He ministered as an evangelist and prophet all over the world, but also attracted criticism and correction from his fellow pastors, as Christy Wimber explains
I feel as if we are at the end of an era. In the last decade, John Paul Jackson, Bob Jones and now Paul Cain, all of whom ministered in the prophetic gifts have passed on.
Many times when I hear people talk about this season in our movement - the Vineyard - as well as Paul in particular, it has been over-glamorised and exaggerated in many ways.
Yes, Paul Cain was very gifted, but he was also very weak. There were so many stories of a grandiose nature that to weed out what was actually true could be quite difficult. When we first met Paul in the early 1990s his story was one that was quite dramatic. Everything about Paul was often dramatic!
Many years later is when he entered into our world. When he came into the Vineyard - I clearly remember it as I thought it was beyond bizarre. At the same time, it was clear Paul was a gifted prophet. He gave detailed words of revelation to our family, which were very personal. He played a major role in my husband Sean coming to Christ from a word he had written down 20 years prior. For all of this, I will be forever grateful to Paul.
Public failings and the call of God
There was never a time when Paul was not "nearly dying’ and speaking of his apparently immediate death. I don’t know how much of that was true or what was just part of the drama. To be honest most times I heard Paul speak it was not profound, or even scriptural. But I don’t think anyone was there to hear Paul preach, but more to get a "word from God". And Paul did receive words from God which he gave to many people, which is why people were drawn into the meetings. However, not all the fruit was good fruit.
Paul was placed on an unrealistic pedestal as a prophet and it was so high the only way to go was down. He failed miserably and publicly. He was confronted by other Christian ministers about his public drunkenness and practice of homosexuality. Paul had minimal interaction with the Vineyard during this time, and when we heard about these failings, we were not too surprised as we saw some poor behavior during our last visit with him many years prior.
RT Kendall recently sent me a note about Paul in which he said, "'The gifts of God are without repentance, that is, irrevocable' (Romans 11:29). Paul’s gift pretty much continued on in his old age, although the last time I heard him he mostly reminisced and had minimal fresh prophetic words." I have to agree.
Building up the whole body of Christ
In hearing of Paul’s death my first reaction is still to honor and give thanks for what he did contribute to the body of Christ, and to us personally. We cannot nor should we discount what good things do come from the life of each individual as we are all broken.
At the same time Paul’s life should remind us that gifts do not equal character and there is no one whose gifts outweigh the greater need for deeper character. When anyone is used and placed above others it only sets people up for failure. And as gifted as Paul was, he was all the more broken.
Gifts do not equal character. No one's gifts outweigh the greater need for deeper character
We must not discount the positive of what Paul gave to the Church, but his passing should also be a clear reminder of the importance of just how easy it is to get caught up in prophesies which only build up man, and often feed an audience-based culture. The Apostle Paul encouraged all "to eagerly desire the gift of prophesy" in 1 Corinthians 14. The point was that all of the Church would strengthen, encourage, and bring comfort to one another.
Paul’s life was a reminder of just how powerful the gift of prophecy can be, yet at the same time when power is misdirected or mishandled it can also do a lot of damage. Sometimes we have to demystify some things we tend to exaggerate so we can operate in the way God has intended. When the gift of prophesy is used as intended it builds up the entire body of Christ.
Paul’s passing yet again reminded me how truly grateful I am and how I miss the leadership of my father in law, John Wimber. I cannot think of this season in the Vineyard without remembering how following a period where John had invited Paul to minister to the Vineyard Movement, he also made the needed corrections. John had realised the unhealthy culture of what I would call ‘word watching’ where he saw the focus on the 'Prophet from God', or misused prophesy, had crippled the Church. So many were showing up at events waiting to get a word from God, instead of focusing on serving others.
John admitted he was wrong in allowing Paul to continue and it was time for the Vineyard to get back to "doing the stuff", which would mean all of the Church being equipped to "strengthen, encourage and comfort one another" instead of waiting and looking around for some word from man.
I think it was around this time John said one of his classic sayings, “I am tired of hearing about the great men of God. I want to hear about the great God of man.”