Katie Souza’s life was a complete mess. Drugs, crime and violence led to imprisonment, where eventually she came to Christ who turned her life around and gave her a specific purpose – her “expected end.” Souza’s expected end was to start a ministry for prisoners and to write this book to aid in their spiritual transformation. The author bases most of her teaching on Old Testament Israel, in particular its exile and captivity, and directly applies Israel’s experience to prisoners today. She writes, “The Captivity Series: The Key to Your Expected End is a study of the exiles in ancient Israel taken from the Old Testament Scriptures. Its purpose is to teach you about ancient Israel’s imprisonment, then help you apply this knowledge to your own incarceration” (p. 13). Seeing Jeremiah 29:11 as a promise all can claim, especially prisoners, Souza believes God will bring freedom to all who apply the principles of her book, and in addition they will discover their own personal, God-given “expected end” (as translated in the KJV- “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”).
As far as I can discern, Souza genuinely believes her message, sincerely wants to help those in the criminal system live for Christ, and offers some very helpful, practical advice such as the necessity of separating from old crowds (p. 33) and the mandate for change and repentance (pp. 48, 59). Unfortunately, the author has drunk deeply from the Pentecostal and Prosperity Gospel wells and therefore offers a distorted brand of Christianity. Three components feed her caricature of the Christian faith:
- Misuse of Scripture. While Souza is usually accurate in her explanation of the narrative sections of Israel’s Old Testament story, nevertheless, she unfortunately believes that direct application of the events and promises is warranted. Her key verse serves as a great example. Jeremiah 29:11 is a promise to Ancient Israel, not to us; she ignores numerous verses written by the same biblical author promising just the opposite (e.g. Jere 21:10; 31:28, 32:42; 39:16; Lam 2:17; 3:38); and the “expected end” has nothing to do in context with our specific calling or purpose in life. Souza’s methodology, when it comes to interpretation of Scripture, is to grab the texts that are appealing, interpret and apply them out of context, ignore all texts that do not support her ideas, patch the out-of-context and misinterpreted verses together to form a theology and message that is unrecognizable from the actual message God has given.
- She does not so much study and teach Scripture as she believes God is speaking to her personally through it. That is, as statements and phrases come to her attention she believes God is personally directing her (pp. 67, 78, 103, 142, 191-192). For example, after reading Paul’s affirmation in Galatians 1:11-12, that what he preached was a direct revelation from God, she “knew God was talking about The Captivity Series. Just like Paul, the revelations I was receiving were not my own, but God’s” (p. 191).
- In addition to claiming direct, personal revelations from God through Scripture, she consistently believes she receives extrabiblical revelation from the Lord as well. These revelations are the key to her life, ministry, message and “expected end” (pp. 1, 10, 14, 38, 68-70, 79-80, 88, 90, 93, 112, 113, 118-127, 130-136, 145-151, 171, 196, 199-200). Souza urges her reader to write down their own revelations to refer to later (p. 1). Souza even concludes her book by claiming she received a personal word of prophecy in 2007 to the effect that God promised He would give her a Kingdom Army to spread the messages He has given her (p. 200). Part of that army is prosperity teacher Joyce Meyer and her ministry (pp. 189 ff).
Apparently some of Souza’s friends have attempted to correct her false teaching regarding revelations and her “prosperity” message (p. 178). But while these warnings gave her pause, she ultimately attributed them to the devil trying to defeat her (pp. 178-179). Too bad, for I believe the fundamental message that prisoners (and all of us) need, the message of freedom from sin, is clearly taught in Scripture. There is no need for twisting the Word of God, adding imaginary personal revelations, or ignoring the Bible’s true message to proclaim this. The message of freedom from sin’s bondage as found in Christ is abundant and clear (John 8:12).
As it stands The Key to Your Expected End is a dangerous book that risks leading people astray into mysticism and the Prosperity Gospel. Perhaps someone with a better grasp of Scripture could take the biblical concepts in the book and develop a manual that would be helpful to the same audience Souza is trying to reach.
The Key to Your Expected End by Katie Souza (Expected End Ministries, 2012) 200pp. + III, paper $20
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Southern View Chapel