New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) – Podcast, Youtube, Book

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NAR podcast

In this chapter, we’re going to be discussing the New Apostolic Reformation. Much of the information from this chapter comes from two books authored by R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec. God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement, as well as A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement.

Not all who are a part of the Word of Faith or hyper-charismatic crowd are part of the New Apostolic Reformation. Nor are all who are a part of the New Apostolic Reformation part of the Word of Faith or hyper-charismatic movements. There are some from the far religious right. This is in part because of their teachings related to Dominionism.

Modern Day Apostles and Prophets

The New Apostolic Reformation is a new movement lead by individuals that call themselves apostles and prophets, much like the New Testament apostles and prophets. These apostles claim that all Christians must submit to their leadership and revelations so they can lead the church in setting up God’s kingdom on earth. They will claim that the reason the church has not been successful to date in completing the Great Commission and setting up God’s kingdom on earth is because apostles and prophets have largely been ignored through church history. Most churches are governed by pastors and elders and denominational leaders. They will say without apostles and prophets at the helm above these other leaders, the church has not had the proper biblical government in place, and only now that churches are starting to embrace apostles and prophets can the church finally finish the Great Commission and set up God’s kingdom on earth. They will claim that Christians who refuse to submit to them will at the very least miss out on God’s end time plan. Those who speak critically of the apostles and prophets are seen by some prominent NAR leaders as under the influence of a powerful demon, which they refer to as the spirit of religion.

Many people have not yet heard of the New Apostolic Reformation by that formal name, but when they start hearing the names of organizations and leaders, they will say that they have heard of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, or Bethel Church in Redding, California. It’s a global movement. It’s experiencing explosive growth in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and is actually responsible for much of the incredible growth we hear about in that part of the world. It’s also very influential here in the United States. NAR churches can be found in virtually every city and town, and in some cases multiple NAR churches. Approximately 3 million people attend these NAR churches, and these are churches that have formally submitted to the authority of a NAR apostle. But in addition to these churches, many classical Charismatic and Pentecostal churches have also come under the influence of NAR teachings to some degree or another. Given that fact, millions of Christians in the United States alone have been influenced or come into contact with NAR teachings to some degree or another.

The NAR is not one single network. There is not one organization that people join to be part of the NAR. There are thousands of individuals who claim to be apostles and may be their own networks of churches, and in some cases these networks can be pretty small. They might be an apostle over 12 churches. But in some cases, they can be fairly large. One network is called Harvest International Ministry based in Pasadena, California, is lead by apostle Che Ahn. This one network claims to encompass 20,000 churches in 50 nations. Other notable leaders are C Peter Wagner, who coined the term “New Apostolic Reformation,” as well as Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle, Lou Engle, Todd Bentley and Bill Johnson.

Abuse of Authority

In these movements, the apostle enjoys an elevated position, but it actually can bring a lot of division, pain, hurt to people who follow the advice or authority of these prophets. Specific types of harm that have been experienced by these NAR leaders and teachings include becoming dependent on prophets to guide them on decisions like who to marry, where to live, where to work. Disillusionment when promises made by NAR leaders don’t pan out. For example, people are promised that they will develop miraculous powers when they follow NAR apostles. When that doesn’t happen, people can grow disillusioned and wonder what’s wrong with them or if God doesn’t love them, and even question the truth of the entire Christian faith. There are many stories of people who come out of this movement who just stop attending church because they don’t know what is true anymore. Another type of harm is division. Churches split over these teachings because an apostle comes and says, “You must submit to me or be outside the will of God.” That’s divisive. People within a church must decide whether they will side with the apostle or go with what they believe to be the truth of God’s word. It causes division not only in churches, but in families, because those within the movement will view those outside the movement as less spiritual because they don’t accept NAR teachings. Another real type of harm is the stunted spiritual growth that people who have been part of this movement report that they experienced. They didn’t recognize it at the time, but after coming out of the movement, they realized that these NAR teachings were distracting them from true biblical teachings that lead to true spiritual maturity. So they often spend years wasting time on these practices and teachings.

It’s a dangerous movement. One will submit to people who claim this kind of authority, claim that the Lord said this or that, use that authority on them, they make major decisions based on what they said, only to find out that the Lord did not say anything to the leader. It’s very tragic.

What is a NAR Apostle?

What does the New Apostolic Reformation movement mean when they say the term apostle? What they are not referring to is somebody who is a missionary or church planter. Classical Pentecostals and Charismatics see some people as having the gift of apostle, and they are very effective at what they do. NAR apostles are an official office in church government, like the office of pastor or elder, but the office of apostle wields much more authority because the pastors and elders must submit to them. Apostles govern multiple churches. Apostles are often referred to as the generals in God’s army, and all other leaders and Christians are expected to submit to them.

What type of authority and privileges and powers does this office of apostle enjoy? In the role of governing the church, they receive new revelation for the church. Apostles will receive revelation directly themselves, or from prophets that they work with. Based on the revelation they receive, they will cast vision for the church. They see themselves as leading the church in spiritual warfare, imparting miraculous gifts to people in the church, settling disputes in the church, imposing church discipline, and when they feel it’s necessary, they can even correct a pastor’s teaching.

Submission to Apostles

How does submission to these apostles work? Everyone is supposed to submit to the authority, or covering, of an apostle. A pastor submits to the authority of an apostle by voluntarily joining an apostolic network of churches. An apostolic network is a network of churches governed by an apostle. The pastor generally agrees to give a portion of the church’s income to the apostle. Individual Christians submit to an apostle when they join a church that is part of an apostolic network and has the proper covering. Because they have the proper spiritual covering, they are promised God’s protection, blessing and rewards, so that is a real benefit for some people. When one is not fully submitting to their spiritual authority, they are opening themselves up for all sorts of spiritual attacks.

Dominionism and Spiritual Warfare

NAR teach they are mobilizing an army for war. In context, this refers to mobilizing an army of Christians for spiritual warfare against demonic influences that exert control over the nations. So this type of NAR spiritual warfare is known as strategic level spiritual warfare, and it’s very much a NAR form of spiritual warfare to cast out territorial spirits that are high ranking spirits influencing society and culture in specific areas. Ordinary church goers have authority to cast out lower level demons, but the only people who have the authority to cast out these high ranking demons are the apostles. They enlist the help of their followers through a number of practices. They have revealed practices like spiritual mapping, prayer walking, spiritual identification ceremonies. These things are practices that are associated with strategic level spiritual warfare. It is important to them to correctly identify the particular territorial spirit is reigning over an area. They will survey through spiritual mapping different influences in the city that are having a prominent influence. After they have identified the territorial spirit, they will directly confront it by means of prayer walking. They will walk around the perimeters of the city or city hall, and say prayers that directly confront the territorial spirit in order to cast it out. It’s believed that once a spirit is cast out, any attempts of evangelism will be effective because the spirit is gone.

Five-Fold Ministry

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (Ephesians 4:11-13)

NAR leaders will teach that God gave 5 offices: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This is referred to as the five-fold ministry. They teach that these offices are to remain until the church reaches a point of unity and maturity. Here are some other passages that are often cited:

And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; (Ephesians 2:20)

And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Scripture Twisting

How are they twisting and misinterpreting these passages? All three passages say nothing about governing offices. In the case of Ephesians 4:11-13, it’s simply listing various types of leaders God has given to build up the church. It doesn’t state that they must hold governing offices. In fact, it doesn’t even list all the leaders that God has given to the church. For instance, it says nothing about deacons though they are discussed in other passages in the Bible. So it would be an incorrect interpretation of this passage to teach that the church must have five ongoing governing offices including apostles and prophets. Again in Ephesians 2:20, nothing about governing offices. This passage is speaking about the time period at the beginning of the church when it was founded by first century apostles and prophets. One does not build a foundation more than once. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, it simply lists different persons that God has given the church, which includes not only apostles and prophets, but also lists speaking in tongues or helps. Not even NAR leaders would say there should be a formal office of speaking in tongues, so they can’t use this verse to argue for the office of apostle or prophet.

Test of an Apostle

How can we judge whether or not these NAR apostles and prophets are from Christ, or whether they are false apostles? A number of passages in 2 Corinthians show that false apostles are characterized by greed, arrogance, self-promotion, superficiality, outward appearance, speaking skills, twist the Scripture, preach a different Jesus and different gospel. They claim to be super-apostles. The Bible contains 5 tests for being a genuine apostle. These tests are that somebody who claims to be an apostle must have received a personal appearance from Christ, meaning literally they were visited by Christ. They must have received a specific commission by Christ. They must be able to perform miracles that can be publicly verified. They must be able to support in Scripture any new teachings and practices they bring. They must have an exemplary personal character and quality of ministry.

Test of a Prophet

Scripture gives three clear tests for those who claim to be prophets. The first test is the fulfillment test. If they make a prediction, it must come to pass exactly as predicted. The second is the orthodoxy test, which requires that prophets words must line up with revelation already given by God. Third is the lifestyle test. Their life must not be characterized by greed, drunkenness, idolatry or sexual immorality.

Even in the Old Testament, there is no evidence that prophets held an official governing office. After the nation was established, it was lead by judges and kings. Prophets would act as advisors to those kings, but there’s not good reason to believe that they governed from an office in a way that NAR leaders describe.

Prophetic Illumination

What is prophetic illumination? NAR prophets claim that God gives them sudden new understandings of Scripture that nobody else has seen before. They refer to this as prophetic illumination.

Passion Translation of the Bible

What is the Passion translation? It’s a new NAR translation of the Bible. It’s produced by apostle Brian Simmons of Stairway Ministries. He claims that the Lord visited him and personally commissioned him to produce this new Bible. It’s been endorsed by a number of well known NAR leaders like Bill Johnson and Che Ahn. It’s widely popular in the movement. It’s dangerous because it contains completely reworded verses to make it appear that the Bible supports NAR teachings. An example would be NAR teachings about apostolic decrees. One finds support for that in the Passion translation in Philippians 1. He admits that he is not a scholar of the original biblical languages. He works as a lone translator. He does not have the qualifications needed to produce a reliable translation of the Bible. But this NAR Bible is being embraced. It’s selling very well. It’s not even an accurate paraphrase. While Brian doesn’t claim direct revelation for this translation, it does seem to be implied by some of the recommendations of the Passion translation that Brian is receiving prophetic illumination to make this translation.

Apostolic Decree

The doctrine of Apostolic Decree is the belief that Apostles have been given authority by God to bring things through their words into existence.

Workplace Apostles

What are workplace apostles? NAR leaders would teach that until recently, they believed that all apostles are in the churches, but now they have realized that there are workplace apostles, and they have authority in those institutions to govern over the Christians in those institutions.

Doctrine vs. Apostolic Authority

Bill Johnson has said, “While doctrine is vitally important it is not a strong enough foundation to bear the weight of His glory that is about to be revealed through true unity.” When NAR leaders teach that the church must achieve unity, they are referring to Apostolic Unity, which they believe is referring to Christians submitting to NAR Apostles. When all the Christians in a particular city recognize and submit to the authority of the local apostles, then unity has been achieved in that city. NAR prophets and apostles are put on a par with Scripture. They are seen as being equal to Scripture, and that is despite statements to the contrary. NAR leaders will deny that. In practice, their revelations are treated as enjoying the unique authority of Scripture.