Photo collage of Bill Johnson, Cindy Jacobs, Kris Vollatton, Chuck Pierce, C. Peter Wagner, Mike Bickle, Patricia King, Rick Joyner, Heidi Baker
"For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves."

Why I Must Oppose the New Apostolic Reformation

I met and talked a great deal with C. Peter Wagner in the late 1980s at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, while attending the beginning and advanced Church Growth Seminars. He had read two books of mine, A Manual of Demonology and the Occult, published by Zondervan Publishing House in 1973, and The Deliverance Book, published by Bible Voice in about 1977.

Either in Charles Kraft’s office or Dr. Wagner’s, the three of us talked about the ministry of deliverance and the signs and wonders I had experienced during the Jesus People Movement, roughly from1967 to 1972. At those meetings I had no idea I was contributing, in some small fashion, to what would become known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

For many years I have followed, to some degree, what was going on in the NAR, read some of the books flowing out of it, visited on several occasions the Bethel Church in Redding, California, hearing a number of the leaders speak there, Randy Clark being one of them. I saw there the gold dust, feathers, and wind of the Holy Spirit (a wind that was actually produced by a large movie-set fan). In addition, an old high school buddy and his wife talked with about their involvement with the Bethel Church. They were long time members and participated in both Sozo and Soaking Prayer ministries besides going on numerous mission trips to other countries. (They ceased attending Bethel some years back, saying things were “just too crazy.”)

After seeing the NAR impact two people in the congregation I pastor (in my 32nd year) at Miller Avenue Baptist Church in Mill Valley, California, events occurred that essentially forced me to speak out and act against a movement I realize is far more errant than I first imagined. Though I have written about this general situation before, the scope and magnitude of it now requires a stronger response.

Here are some of the reasons that brought me to this position.

Unconverted People Drawn to the NAR may Experience False Conversion

Recently I learned of people attracted to some of the venues where NAR operates who are not Christians, but are what I would call thrill seekers. Mainly they are looking for excitement (huge emphasis on music, heavy on the drum and base guitar) and maybe witness a miracle or two. There are also some who suffer some sort of disability or illness that they hope will be healed by the miracle-working apostles and prophets who are “bringing heaven to earth by the power of transformed minds.”

Attendees at NAR gatherings are most often presented with a weak Christianity that does not focus on the Biblical Gospel. Some claim healing, for a while at least, and some see what they think are miracles and buy into the whole package but without becoming born again followers of Jesus. Of course, Christian-like sayings are mentioned frequently, but most of it what is presented is severely lacking in content. It is no exaggeration to say that the NAR is not evangelistic in nature, though proponents of it would deny such an evaluation.

New or Weak Christians Hoping to Find Assurance

Not only are the falsely converted attracted to signs, wonders, and miracles, but also those who struggle in their Christian lives and are looking for confirmation they are on the right path. The NAR seems to answer this need for many. After all, if you witness a miracle, then God must be real, and you are not being misled.

As a pastor for nearly fifty years, I have seen this quite understandable circumstance often. There are so many reasons why this is so, but it is not possible to present them all here. That it happens is plain.

Trouble arises, because seeing one miracle is not enough. It can become addictive. Faith that rests on signs and wonders is no faith at all. Christian faith is in Jesus alone, both who He is—Emmanuel, meaning God with us—and what He did—taking our sin upon Himself and carrying it away forever, dying in our place, rising from the grave, and freely giving us eternal life. This is Biblical faith.

Christians Becoming so Disillusioned they Give up on Church Completely

This is exactly what has happened to my friends in Redding. Their trust in pastors and church organizations is shattered. It may take years before someone burned by the shallowness and miracle-oriented gimmicks typical of NAR gatherings will venture out and look for Christian fellowship again.

My sense is that when the NAR implodes, and it will implode, there will be many thousands of Christians who will sink down in despair and experience a loss very similar to someone who loses a loved one to death. This is why I am considering preparing a recovery program especially designed for those who will be devastated by such a collapse in something for which they had such hope and commitment.

It will implode, because literally hundreds of their major prophets predict things that have not and will not come to pass; because the signs, wonders, and miracles no longer serve as a shot in the arm; because leaders fall away, corporate greed takes over, and there are power struggles; and because even more bizarre prophecies are given out. The NAR says it is the vanguard, indeed the very instrument that God is using to bring the entire globe under the authority of the apostles and prophets and thereby establish the kingdom of God on earth. They claim that when all the facets of human existence—the “seven mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion—are Christianized, then Jesus will return.

This scenario is called post-millennialism, and more recently tagged Dominionism, the concept whereby the world is brought under the rule of God by His Church. The fantastic claim is that this is what God is doing now, as revealed to the super-apostles, mainly people like C. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, Mick Bickle, Rick Joyner, and a growing list of other apostles, prophets ( and a new designation coming into frequent use—generals). The Bible does not teach this clearly, and past attempts to usher in the kingdom of God have proven to be errant, so how is it that so many have piled on board with the NAR? A powerful delusion maybe?

The Non-Christian World Views the NAR as a Laughing Stock

If you type “New Apostolic Reformation” into a Google search you will be shocked at what you find. Wikipedia has many contributors to the discussion. And what is seen in the countless videos of folks like Heidi Baker, Stacy Campbell, Bill Johnson, Rick Joyner, Kris Vallotton, to name a few, is scandalous and embarrassing to the point that Christian witness is compromised, bias develops against anything Christian, weak Christians are stumbled, and ordinary Christians are hurt and confused.

As time has passed, with the official beginning of the NAR pegged at 2000 or earlier, the movement has become even more ridiculous, and I think this is due to power struggles, money running out, greater scrutiny from news organizations, and reports from those who have left the movement in disgust. And these are only increasing.

Is the NAR a Cult?

During the 1830s and 1840s America saw the rise of several Bible-based cults. Two of these, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons, developed their own sacred books, The New World Bible for the Witnesses and The Book of Mormon for the Mormons.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses needed a new translation of the Bible in order to insert material that supported their rendition of things. The NAR folks have done the same, and it is called The Passion Translation.

In addition, the NAR is speaking of a “civil war” amongst Christians. Those not aligned with the movement are referred to in disparaging terms, resulting in the classic cultic “we-they” mentality. The small evangelical church of which I am pastor would never be visited or attended by someone affiliated or aligned with an NAR church except for the purpose of drawing people away from the congregation.

“Are you hearing about the new things God is doing in these last days? Are you seeing the miracles and the healings like we are? Are you moving in the flow of the Spirit?” These questions are calculated to entice the unwary to attend a church aligned with God-appointed apostles, generals, and prophets, and this strategy has proven to be quite effective.

For six years, from 1988 to 1994, I conducted a cult recovery support group. The recovery focused on how people view themselves in relation to others. I needed it myself, because I recognized I had been part of a group with a cultic mentality: “We” were moving in the Spirit, attuned to the voice of God, operating in the gifts, bringing heaven to earth, and filled with the Spirit, while “they” were dead Christians, merely singing old dull hymns and listening to boring sermons. And “we” were praying for these poor souls that they would wake up and get on board.

That is only a fragment of the cult mindset, and this view of others who are not rightly submitted to the apostles and prophets who are bringing the kingdom upon the whole world, is delusion and deception.

Division in the Church

I will admit there is now a kind of civil disturbance going on. And it is sad, because most of those aligned with NAR groups and churches are genuine brothers and sisters in Christ. It is for this reason, above all others, that I am writing this essay.

My appeal to NAR advocates is twofold. One, critically analyze what you hear and see. It is not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to do so, but this is what is often communicated. Please realize that you are part of spiritually oriented intimidation. Two, return to being a simple follower of Jesus—read your Bible, have prayer time, and seek out other believers for fellowship. If you have been critically injured you will recover, and never give up. Every born again believer has his or her name written in heaven and is completely safe and secure. We continue to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Kent Philpot

June 2017

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Last Update: 2017-07-01 11:35