New Apostolic Reformation
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The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a title used to describe a movement that seeks to establish a fifth house within Christendom, distinct from Catholicism, Protestantism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and Eastern Orthodoxy, largely associated with the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements. Its fundamental difference from other movements is the belief that the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of prophet and apostle, are being restored. Inspired by the G12 movement, it grows by discreetly recruiting pastors of independent congregations and nondenominational churches, by assimilating members from other churches through cell group meetings, and by frequent Church planting and rapid cytokinesis, including foreign missions around the globe. The churches spun out then form a loose network with a tightly knit history that serves as the basis of an otherwise informal and generally unadvertised far-ranging governmental structure. With this strategy, it expects to rapidly overwhelm and dominate the preexisting Christian denominations in the world.
The New Apostolic Reformation is a title originally used by C. Peter Wagner to describe a movement within Pentecostal and charismatic churches. The title New Apostolic Reformation is descriptive of a theological movement and is not an organization and therefore does not have formal membership. Among those in the movement that inspired the title NAR, there is a wide range of variance on specific beliefs. Those within the movement hold to their denominational interpretations of the ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit within each believer. Unlike some parts of Protestant Christianity, these include the direct revelation of Christ to each believer, prophecy, and the performance of miracles such as healing. This move has also been given the descriptive title "Third Wave of the Holy Spirit".
Although the movement regards the church as the true body of saved believers, as does most of evangelical Protestantism, it differs from the broader Protestant tradition in its view on the nature of church leadership, specifically the doctrine of Five-Fold Ministry, which is based upon a non-traditional interpretation of Ephesians 4:11. C. Peter Wagner writes that most of the churches in this movement have active ministries of spiritual warfare. As an example of this warfare he claims that God acted through him to end mad-cow disease in Germany. In an article responding to criticism of the NAR, Wagner notes that those who affiliate themselves with the movement believe the Apostles’ Creed and all the orthodoxy of Christian doctrine, so that the movement is therefore not heretical.
Wagner has listed the differences between the NAR and traditional Protestantism as follows:
- Apostolic governance – The Apostle Paul's assertion that Jesus appoints apostles within his church continues to this day.
- The office of the prophet – There is within the church a role and function for present-day prophets.
- Dominionism – "When Jesus came, He brought the kingdom of God and He expects His kingdom-minded people to take whatever action is needed to push back the long-standing kingdom of Satan and bring the peace and prosperity of His kingdom here on earth."
- Theocracy – Not to be confused with theocratic government but rather the goal to have "kingdom-minded people" in all areas of society. There are seven areas identified specifically: religion, family, education, government, media, arts & entertainment, and business.
- Extra-biblical revelation – There is available to all believers the ability to hear from God. "The one major rule governing any new revelation from God is that it cannot contradict what has already been written in the Bible. It may supplement it, however."
- Supernatural signs and wonders – Signs and wonders such as healing, demonic deliverance, and confirmed prophecies accompany the move of God.
- Relational structures – church governance has no formal structure but rather is by relational and voluntary alignment to apostles.
The term "New Apostolic Reformation" traces its historical roots to late-twentieth-century American charismatic churches, and the earliest use of the moniker was by C. Peter Wagner, which unintentionally prompted journalists to perceive him as spiritual god-father of the movement. The movement itself, previous to the title, started in 1900 in the African Independent Church Movement. Other notable examples of this movement in recent history are the Latin American Grassroots Church Movement and the U.S. Independent Charismatic Movement, both starting in the 1970s.
Though few organizations publicly espouse connection to the NAR, there are several individuals often associated with this movement including:
- Lou Engle, founder of The Call
- Bill Johnson, head pastor of Bethel Church
- Rick Joyner, founder of Morning Star Ministries
- John P. Kelly, founder of John P. Kelly Ministries and Convening Apostle
- C. Peter Wagner, founder of Global Harvest Ministries
- Mike Bickle, founder of International House of Prayer
Wagner considers 2001 the beginning of the second apostolic age, for the movement holds that the lost offices of prophet and apostle were restored in that year.
Forrest Wilder, an environmental-issues writer for the Texas Observer, describes the New Apostolic Reformation as having "taken Pentecostalism, with its emphasis on ecstatic worship and the supernatural, and given it an adrenaline shot." Wilder adds that beliefs of people associated with the movement "can tend toward the bizarre" and that it has "taken biblical literalism to an extreme."
Al Jazeera called the NAR "America's Own Taliban" in an article highlighting NAR's dominionism as bearing resemblance to Islamic extremism as seen in groups such as the Taliban because of the NAR's language concerning spiritual warfare.
National Public Radio brought the discussion about the political influence of the NAR to a national audience with a 2011 article. One of the main researchers cited in the article was Rachel Tabachnick, an independent researcher and contributor to Talk2Action, an online news outlet concerned with watching the religious right. Lou Engle and Don Finto, who are considered to be leaders within the NAR, participated in a prayer event called "The Response", hosted by 2012 presidential nominee Rick Perry, on August 6, 2011, in Houston, Texas. This event is cited as a sign of the influence of NAR beliefs on Rick Perry's political viewpoints. Other politicians that have been cited as having connections to the NAR are Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Sam Brownback, and Ted Cruz.
Spiritual Birthing and other bizarre manifestations
The movement has become known for many bizarre physical, mental and emotional manifestations of behaviors that place it well outside of mainstream Christian expression. One of the most controversial has been the practice of 'spiritual birthing', a phenomenon whereby women, and at times even men, claim to be having actual contractions of the womb brought on by the anointing of the holy spirit, while they retch and moan as though experiencing childbirth. Some critics consider this practice to be demonic. Notable examples have included The Range Christian Fellowship in the conservative Australian city of Toowoomba, where this strange manifestation is witnessed on an almost weekly basis - full details of which can be found in the Wikipedia article, Pentecostalism in Australia.
Other bizarre behaviours include claims made by adherents during and after experiencing moments of religious ecstasy, that 'gold dust', precious gems, 'heaven clouds' and 'angel feathers' have spontaneously appeared. This has been widely documented in the religious commentary, analysis and critical press. Some people involved in this even claim to have received spontaneous gold tooth fillings.
Followers in this movement were highly prone to end-times conspiracy theories associated with Y2K, when many engaged in frenetic activity to prepare for an anticipated total breakdown of society. This was viewed as something to be welcomed as it was believed and at times predicted through so-called prophecies, that it would be the catalyst for a hoped-for worldwide Christian revival. Leaders in the movement at the time used fears of apocalyptic outcomes to generate huge personal and corporate profits through sales of books, survivalist materials and other merchandise.
The Prayer of Jabez was also popular in this movement. Followers were drawn to the prayer in cult-like devotion, using it in a repetitive manner as a mantra. It was particularly evident in those churches associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, Kingdom Now theology, Dominion theology, Five-fold ministry thinking and other more extreme or fringe elements within the spirit-filled Christianity movement. Some within the movement used the prayer in an almost superstitious way, believing it to be a harbinger of prosperity, good fortune, wealth, health and happiness. It was overtly promoted by some leaders within these churches, who benefited personally and/or corporately through their religious organizations by on-selling the vast range of commercial merchandise associated with the prayer. Such leaders convinced some followers that these items of merchandise carried with them special powers attributed to the anointing of the holy spirit, and were said to be even more effective when combined with repetitive chanting of the prayer. This attracted strong criticism from some conservative Christian leaders on the grounds it encouraged a shallow, self-centred spiritual mindset, while other critics claimed that used in this way it was more reminiscent of mysticism and demonic influence.
The NAR has displayed an almost obsessive focus on the concept of revival. This has been predicated on a belief in the power of a practice known as strategic level spiritual warfare. They claim that through this action Christians are able to take control of the demonic Territorial Spirits (evil spirits) that make cities or geographical areas both sinful and resistant to the gospel message. Following this action, it is expected and predicted (at times through prophecies) that a great revival of Christian faith including thousands of new conversions will follow, in addition to a reduced crime rate, phenomenal church growth, improved morality, general prosperity among the population and the installation of men and women of God into government. It is often accompanied by further claims that this action will make the area of focus a strategic hub of the anticipated great revival. This expectation of social transformation following strategic level spiritual warfare has failed to materialize and was based on the teaching of George Otis Jr., whose claims of great transformations in several South American locations are now regarded by many as false, as they have been unable to be verified when investigated by his critics.
- Churchquake: The Explosive Dynamics of the New Apostolic Revolution ISBN 0-8307-1918-0
- The New Apostolic Churches ISBN 0-8307-2136-3
- The Apostolic Revelation – The Reformation of the Church ISBN 0-646-41849-1
- God's Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement ISBN 1-941-33708-2
- A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement ISBN 1-941-33703-1
- Wagner, Peter (24 Aug 2011). "The New Apostolic Reformation Is Not a Cult". Charisma News. Retrieved 2013-02-20.
- Wilder, Forrest (2 August 2011). "Rick Perry's Army of God". Texas Observer. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- Wagner, Peter (2000). "Renewal Journal #15, The New Apostolic Reformation". Renewal Journal. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
- Wilder, Forrest (12 August 2011). "As Texas Gov. Rick Perry Enters GOP Race, New Exposé Reveals His Close Ties to Radical Evangelicals". Democracy Now. Retrieved 14 October 2013.
- C Peter Wagner, The New Apostolic Churches (Ventura CA; Regal, 1998), p. 18.
- Tabachnick, Rachel (19 August 2011). "The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare". National Public Radio. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- The "New Apostolic" church movement – Let Us Reason Ministries – (C. Peter Wagner Arise Prophetic Conference Gateway Church San Jose, CA 10/10/2004) Retrieved 11 July 2011.
- Rosenberg, Paul (28 July 2011). "America's Own Taliban". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 19 July 2013.
- Posner, Sarah (15 Jul 2011). "Rick Perry and the New Apostolic Reformation". Religion Dispatches. Retrieved 2013-03-01.
- "Rafael Cruz Declares Son Ted Cruz "Anointed King"".
- Generals International Official Website
- The Call Official Website
- The New Apostolic Reformation:Influence and Teachings
- Review at Let Us Reason Ministries Website
- Wagner Leadership Institute
- International Coalition of Apostles
- International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders
- European Coalition of Apostolic Leaders