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July 2022
Special Article

This essay is a slightly revised version of a talk that I gave to the
pastors of the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church
of Singapore in April 2016.

In 1999, an international group of apostles gathered in Singapore in what was to
be a historic meeting. For it was at this meeting that the International Coalition
of Apostles (ICA) was formed. According to its website, the goal of ICA is to
‘advance the Kingdom of God more rapidly and effectively’ by combining the
resources of the global apostolic leadership. In the words of the presiding
Apostle John P. Kelly, the purpose of ICA is ‘to connect each member’s wisdom
and resources in order to function more strategically, each combining efforts
globally, and effectively accelerate the advancement of the kingdom of God on
earth’.

The first annual Meeting of ICA was held near Dallas, Texas a year after its
founding in 2000. In that year, John Kelly invited C. Peter Wagner to be the
presiding Apostle. In 2009, after serving for nine years, Wagner claimed that the
Lord directed him to ask John Kelly to assume again the role of presiding
Apostle. At its Annual Conference in 2013, John Kelly changed the name of the
Coalition to the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL). According
to its statement issued in 2013, ‘The new name allows more leaders worldwide to
embrace the apostolic movement’. ICAL has established National Coalitions in
45 countries throughout the world including Australia, Croatia, El Salvador,
Zimbabwe, Spain and the Dominican Republic. Singapore, where the Coalition
was born, is a member, and Rev. Naomi Dowdy is the Ambassadorial Apostle for
Singapore.

I began with ICAL because it is the most visible arm of an international
movement called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which has generated
serious controversies. In fact, the controversies surrounding this movement have
prompted Peter Wagner, its most esteemed spokesperson, to publish an article
in CharismaNews entitled, ‘The New Apostolic Reformation is Not a Cult’.

In this talk, we will examine and evaluate this movement – its origins, distinctive
features, teachings and influence. We will especially assess the claims made by its
most prominent leaders as well as their doctrines and practices. In this talk, I
want to show you why I think the NAR has ventured beyond the boundaries of
Christian orthodoxy, and why some of its teachings are not only erroneous but also dangerous. I begin by tracing the origins of the NAR and by examining its background. Then I shall provide a broad sketch of its basic emphases and
doctrines and highlight some of its significant leaders. And finally, I shall
examine – albeit very briefly – the NAR’s reach and the influence in America
and globally.

ORIGIN AND BACKGROUND
Let me begin with a brief sketch of the origins of the NAR. What is the genesis of
this movement? What were the antecedent developments that influenced and
shaped the NAR? Let’s begin with the name itself. In 1994, C. Peter Wagner
coined the name ‘New Apostolic Reformation’ to give the new movement an
identity. In his book entitled, Churchquake! Wagner recounts how he arrived at
‘New Apostolic Reformation’ after experimenting with other possible names.
Wagner provides the rationale for settling with this name for the movement
thus: The movement is apostolic because its leaders are restoring the apostolic
office that the church has lost. It is a reformation because, like the sixteenth
century Protestant Reformation, this new work of God will revolutionise the
church. And finally, as Wagner puts it, the ‘adjective “new” is … intended to
distinguish what is happening today from … older movements, which might be
seen as “old” apostolic movements.’

Although Wagner calls it a new move of God, the NAR is in fact not new at all.
Many of its emphases, teachings and practices can be traced to a development
that took place in American Pentecostalism in the 1940s. Known as the New
Order of Latter Rain (NOLR), this development provided the NAR the
inspiration for its vision as well as its theology. One of the most prominent
figures in the Latter Rain movement is William Branham, whose ministry was
often accompanied by signs and wonders and strange manifestations. Branham
claimed that his ministry was entirely directed by a personal angel who taught
him the Word of God and who revealed to him divine secrets. According to
Branham, his personal angel was the same messenger that was sent to the
Laodicean church in the Book of Revelation. This angel revealed to Branham
that he was the Elijah who must come before Christ could return.

Branham rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. He taught that the Father, Son and
Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons but three manifestations of the one
God. Branham therefore has revived the ancient heresy called modalism that was
condemned in the Council of Nicaea in AD 325. But despite his many heretical
teachings, the NAR leaders hailed Branham as one of the most powerful
prophets of our time. For example, in his book Growing in the Prophetic, Mike
Bickle affirms that Branham was the true prophet of God. Commenting on the
ministry of Branham, Bill Johnson of Bethel Church says that ‘there are few men
that have ever lived, and perhaps no one that has ever lived that carried the
anointing and the power that this particular man had’.

In 1951, George Warnock wrote a book that delineates the teachings of the
Latter Rain Movement entitled, The Feast of Tabernacles. In this book, Warnock
maintains that the main teaching of the Latter Rain movement has to do with
what he calls the ‘Ascension gifts’ of Christ. By this he meant the so-called fivefold
ministry of Ephesians 4:11. Latter Rain teaches that in the last days God will
restore the five-fold ministry, especially those of the apostle and the prophet.
End-time apostles and prophets will be responsible for perfecting the church
before Christ returns. The book emphasises that Christ will not return until the
apostles and the prophets have successfully created this elite church. Christ will
not return for a weak church.

Warnock writes:

O the immensity of these words! And what is more, Christ is going to
remain right where he is at God’s right hand until there shall arise a
group of overcomers who shall conquer all God’s enemies … And yet
the majority of Christians are looking for a rapture any moment,
when Christ is supposed to catch away a miserable, defeated, diseaseridden
Church.

This leads us to one of the most heretical teachings of Latter Rain called ‘the
manifest sons of God’. According to Latter Rain, God will raise some Christians
who will be distinguished from the rest because they will be perfect. They would
attain everything that is promised to believers. And they will attain this spiritual
blessing of perfection before the return of Christ. This new breed of Christians
will belong to the elite ‘Melchizedek’ priesthood. They alone will be responsible
for bringing about the arousia, the return of the Lord.
As we have seen, the Latter Rain movement came onto the scene in Pentecostal
Christianity in America in the early 1940s. On September 13, 1949, the General
Council of the Assemblies of God in the US passed a resolution that denounced
the teachings of the Latter Rain:

RESOLVED, That we disapprove of those extreme teachings and
practices which being unfounded Scripturally, serve only to break
fellowship of like precious faith and tend to confusion and division
among members of the Body of Christ, and be it hereby known that
this 23rd General Council disapproves of the so-called ‘New Order of
the Latter Rain’, to wit …

 

2. The erroneous teaching that the Church is built on the foundation
of present-day apostles and prophets.

In the 1980s, however, the leaders of the NAR revived and incorporated some of
these Latter Rain doctrines. For example, Bill Hamon, one of the most influential
leaders of the NAR, brought the ‘manifest sons of God’ teaching into the
movement with the strong approval of Peter Wagner. For Hamon, the end-time apostles and prophets of NAR are the ‘manifest sons of God’. In his book,
Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God Hamon writes:

The whole creation is waiting for the last generation Church. The
earth and all creation are waiting for the manifestation of God’s lastday
apostles and prophets and fully restored Church. ‘For the earnest
expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons
of God’ (Rom 8:19). When the Church is fully restored, then the
saints will receive their final redemption, the immortalisation of the
mortal bodies.

Besides these erroneous doctrines, NAR leaders also incorporated other Latter
Rain teachings that inform movements like Joel’s Army. The retrieval of these
doctrines by the NAR is aided by another heretical movement in the 1980s
associated with the Kansas City Prophets. Regrettably, we don’t have time to
look at this development this morning. I dealt with this group briefly last year in
my course on neo-paganism and the Church. The similarities between the Latter
Rain and NAR are striking. NAR seems to be reproducing almost every major
emphasis and doctrine of the older heresy that was rightly condemned by the
Assemblies of God.

DISTINCTIVE DOCTRINES
In the scope of this talk, it is quite impossible to examine the teachings and
practices of the NAR movement in detail. To do this would require a series of
three or four talks. In this talk, I can only sketch, in very broad brush-strokes,
some of the most important claims of the ‘new breed’, the leaders of the NAR.
What are some of the distinctive features of the New Apostolic Reformation?
What are its emphases and chief doctrines?

As the name of the movement suggests, the main emphasis of the NAR is that in
the last days God will restore the office of the Apostle. In fact, the NAR
maintains that God will restore the offices of both the prophet and the apostle. It
is the responsibilities of the apostles and the prophets to lead the church into
perfection. NAR leaders have a way of commandeering Church history to
support their claims. People like Peter Wagner and Mike Bickle teach that since
the inception of the Church, God had always intended it to be governed by
prophets and apostles. However, as the history of the Church marches on, these
offices have been eclipsed and set aside, replaced by pastors, elders and
denominational executives. They claim that only when the offices of the
prophets and the apostles are fully restored will the Church be ready for the
challenges in the end-times.

The NAR prophet Bill Hamon asserts that ‘God has ordained that the apostles
and prophets will receive the revelations, creative ideas, and divine strategy for
bringing transformation to this world as God has ordained from the foundation of the world’. The NAR teaches that these end-time prophets and apostles are as
authoritative and perhaps even more powerful than the foundational apostles
that governed the Church in the Book of Acts.

If the first emphasis of the NAR is the restoration of the offices of the prophet
and the apostle, the second is that in the last days God will raise up a special
group of Christians. These elites are said to belong to the ‘Melchizedek
priesthood’. Only Christians living in the end-times and who recognise the
leadership of God’s end-time prophets and apostles can belong to this exclusive
priesthood. Saints of previous generations do not qualify. This of course implies
that even Peter, Paul and James do not qualify to be included in this special
priesthood.

According to NAR leaders, ordinary Christians are miserable and defeated. But
saints who belong to this new priesthood, the ‘new breed’, the ‘manifest sons of
God’, will be overcomers. NAR leaders have therefore introduced a class
distinction among Christians. Earl Paulk, one of the leaders who has developed
this teaching, could even say that these elite Christians ‘will bring forth life as
they become the “incarnate Word” on planet Earth’.

The third distinctive teaching of the NAR is Dominionism. According to the
NAR, the New Testament actually presents two gospels. There is the ‘gospel of
salvation’, and there is the ‘gospel of the kingdom’. The church has emphasised
the ‘gospel of salvation’, which has to do with the good news of Christ’s death
and resurrection for the salvation of fallen humankind. But the church has
neglected the second gospel, ‘gospel of the kingdom’. This second gospel has to
do with the church exercising dominion on the earth. Peter Wagner writes:

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s Kingdom would come and His will
would be done on earth as it is in heaven. To that end, in these
present times the urgent mandate of God to the Church is to actively
engage in transforming society.

Now, when NAR leaders speak about exercising dominion or transforming
society, they are not simply saying that Christians must influence society. They
are teaching that Christians must take control of society’s institutions. In other
words, the NAR envisions a form of theocracy. The militancy of NAR has led
Paul Rosenberg of Al Jazeera to call the NAR ‘America’s own Taliban’.
In connection to the theme of dominionism, NAR leaders talk about the Seven
Mountains Mandate. In his book entitled The Seven Mountains Prophecy, US
Prophet Johnny Enlow provides a clear summary of what this mandate is all
about: ‘I’ve shared that the mountains were the infrastructural columns of our
societies – that it’s the Lord’s plan to raise His people up to take every social,
economic, and political structure of our nations’.

What are these seven mountains, these seats of power? They are society’s most
influential institutions: government, media, family, business, education,
church/religion, and the arts. According to Enlow, among all the mountains,
government is the most important ‘because it can establish laws and decrees that
affect and control every other mountain’. He maintains that God is raising
apostles to ‘possess’ this all-important mountain. Again, it is important to note
that the NAR leaders are not content with only influencing society. The Seven
Mountain Mandate is about taking control.

In order for the Church to exercise dominion over the seven mountains, she
must engage in spiritual warfare. Not just any spiritual warfare, but strategiclevel
spiritual warfare. This is another important NAR teaching. NAR leaders
believe that powerful demons are in control over territories and over societal
institutions. In order for the Church to exercise control over these areas and
bring in a new world order, these territorial demons must be identified and
defeated.

Strategic-level spiritual warfare is about fighting these territorial spirits by
spiritual mapping, prayer-walking, warfare prayer and warfare worship.
Although NAR leaders maintain that every believer is involved in this warfare, it
is left to the apostles to battle the most powerful demons. These demons would
recognise the rank and authority of the apostles. As Apostle Héctor Torres puts
it: ‘Although every believer has rank to cast out devils [from individuals],
apostles walk and minister in the highest rank. Evil spirits and angels recognise
this rank’.

Finally, NAR leaders believe that in the end times, there will be a massive
transfer of wealth from the wicked to the Church. Naturally, the apostles will be
in control of this wealth. This teaching can be traced to the early 1990s, and was
probably introduced by Peter Wagner. In his 2006 book Apostles Today, Wagner
writes: ‘I am convinced that without access to wealth, we will see very little social
transformation over the years’. The NAR has been organising an annual
conference called the Kingdom Economic Yearly Summit (KEYS). NAR leaders
even claim that this conference is the spiritual counterpart to the World
Economic Forum.

We may wish to revisit many of these claims and teachings in the course of our
discussion. But I would like to say at this juncture that none of these claims
could find support from Scripture, at least, not in the way the Church has
understood Scripture. As we shall see, NAR leaders are very fond of twisting and
distorting Scripture with their idiosyncratic interpretation to give the impression
that the word of God supports their claims. Peter Wagner even said that
although the new prophesies and revelations do not contradict Scripture; they
might supplement or add to the Scriptural revelation.

PROMINENT NAR LEADERS
I would like now to do a very quick survey of the most prominent NAR leaders. I
think it is important that we know who they are and what their specific
ministries are because some of their books are found in our bookstores. In fact, I
know of Churches and Christian leaders in Singapore that are promoting this
literature. Now, there are many NAR leaders, so it is impossible to review all of
them or even most of them, given our time constraints. What I propose to do is
to highlight some of the main personalities. I will not be discussing them in any
order or importance. And I can only offer the briefest outline about them.

The first prominent NAR leader is Mike Bickle who purportedly holds the office
of a prophet. Bickle has long been associated with the Kansas City Prophets and
he is a keen follower of one of the most celebrated prophets in the 1980s and
1990s, namely, Bob Jones. Bickle used to compile Jones’ prophesies and conduct
countless interviews with the prophet. In my seminar on neopaganism and the
Church which I conducted last year at SAC, I discussed Jones’ prophesies in
detail. I also reported that Jones was embroiled in a sex scandal and that John
Wimber of Vineyard issued a public statement against him. Time does not allow
me to discuss Jones here. But Bickle, who is the founder of the International
House of Prayer (IHOP), is obviously very influenced by Jones. IHOP has
established a branch here in Singapore.

On IHOP’s website, Bickle issued a number of affirmations and denials that are
purposed to distance the organisation from the teachings of William Branham
and the Latter Rain. But upon closer inspection one discovers that IHOP
upholds and teaches the exact same doctrines of Latter Rain. The only difference
is that the language is now changed. Latter Rain heresies are given a new garb,
and disguised to make them look respectable. This desire to look respectable and
mainstream is also seen in a particular strategy that IHOP has adopted. Thus,
they have invited well-known evangelicals such as Dallas Willard and Josh
McDowell to speak at their meetings – more on this later.

But the agenda of this NAR prophet is nothing less than to change Christianity
in one generation. Bickle testified that while he was in Egypt, God spoke to him
by an ‘internal audible voice’. This is what Bickle claims that God said to him:

Suddenly the Lord gave me this sentence: ‘I am going to change the
understanding and expression of Christianity in the whole earth in
one generation.

This is the genesis of Bickle’s heterodox notion of the ‘bridal identity’, the
perfected church that the end-time prophets and apostles will bring about. This
erroneous ecclesiology or doctrine of the church in turn shaped Bickle’s
erroneous eschatology, his understanding of the last things. Bickle teaches that
Jesus cannot return until the church has achieved her bridal identity, her
perfected state: ‘He is not coming any day. He is not coming until the people of
God globally are crying out in intercession with a bridal identity under the
anointing of the Spirit’.

A number of NAR leaders occupy both the offices of the prophet and the apostle.
Peter Wagner does not enjoy this high standing. He is only an apostle. But
Wagner is the chief apostle, the first among equals, the ‘pope’ of NAR. However,
he is not a prophet. Unlike Wagner, Bill Hamon, the second NAR leader that we
will discuss, is an apostle and a prophet. On the website of Christian
International Ministries Network, Bill Hamon, its founder, is described as
exercising the prophetic ministry for 60 years. It claims that Hamon has
prophesied to more than 50,000 people and that he has trained more than
250,000 in the prophetic ministry. The website also says that he is a bishop, who
has episcopal authority over 3,000 ministries and churches in five continents.
Christian International Ministries has a branch in Singapore, headed by David
Enoch who was ordained as Prophetic-Apostle by Bill Hamon himself.

One of the most prominent doctrines associated with Bill Hamon that most
NAR leaders share is called ‘manifest sons of God’, which we have already
alluded to earlier. Hamon believes that in the last days, the followers of the endtime
prophets and apostles will receive in this life all the benefits of immortality.
In effect, they will be like Jesus after his resurrection. In fact, Hamon teaches that
they will be an extension of the incarnation of Christ on earth.

Bill Hamon articulated this doctrine of the immortalisation of the manifest sons
of God most clearly and succinctly in his book The Day of the Saints. He writes:

A greater measure of revelation, faith and overcoming grace is being
released in the Church. The mortal Church is in transition and
preparation for becoming the immortal Church. The resurrectiontranslation
of the saints that brings about the redemption of their
bodies into indestructible bodies will take place so that God can fulfil
his greater purpose for and through the Church. There is a last-day
ministry designed for the overcoming Church to accomplish in the
heavenlies and on earth that will require the saints to have their
bodies redeemed.

Rick Joyner, another NAR prophet, believes that every manifest son of God will
enjoy what he calls ‘Divine Health’. In fact, NAR leaders like Joyner believe that
the elderly who become the manifest sons of God will experience a halt in the
aging process. They will also literally grow physically younger. And, of course,
these manifest sons will have the power to heal every disease. Joyner writes:

There will be no plague, disease, or physical condition, including lost
limbs, AIDS, poison gas, or radiation, which will resist the healing
and miracle gifts working in the saints during this time.

Joyner is one of the most influential apostle-prophets in the NAR, who
prophesies over the nations. He gives yearly prophecies that allegedly map out
God’s plans for America and the world on his MorningStar Ministries’ TV
Broadcasts. Although Joyner repeatedly emphasises – as do all NAR leaders –
that his teachings are based on Scripture and that he never teaches a new
doctrine, in practice we see the exact opposite. Together with the other NAR
leaders, Joyner teaches that God will raise prophets and apostles in the end time
to perfect the church, and that there will be a great ‘spiritual civil war’ in the
church. These doctrines have no scriptural support whatsoever.

One of the most disturbing aspects of Joyner’s teachings is his doctrine of
inspiration. Joyner teaches that there are four levels of inspiration: impressions,
sense of divine presence, open visions and trances. Joyner teaches that the
inspiration of the Biblical authors like Jeremiah and Paul belong to the second
level, namely, the sense of God’s presence and illumination. But Joyner goes on
to claim that the inspiration of the end-time prophets usually falls in the last and
highest category, namely, trances. In fact, Joyner claims that his book, The Final
Quest was written while he was in a trance. This means that Joyner’s book and
the prophetic utterances of the end-time prophets are more authoritative than
Scripture itself!

Finally, and very briefly, we want to turn our attention to another prominent
NAR leader, the prophet and pastor of Bethel Church, Bill Johnson. Johnson’s
ministry and books are quite popular among those who move in these circles. In
fact, Bethel Church, Redding, has attracted Christians – even Christian leaders –
from many countries who are looking for an anointing or a miracle. This has
prompted some commentators to say that Bethel church is the NAR version of
Lourdes.

Johnson is very open about incorporating occult and New Age practices in his
church, believing that practices like consulting spirit guides, spirit portals and
grave sucking are gifts that God has given to the church. Like many NAR
leaders, Johnson is responsible for numerous erroneous teachings like the claim
that in the incarnation Jesus was just a man, that Jesus was born again, and many
more. Johnson also teaches that it is apostolic leadership – and by that he means
the leadership of the end time prophets and apostles – that will unite the church,
not doctrine or truths.

I do not have the time to discuss other NAR leaders like Cindy Jacobs, Che Ann,
Choo Thomas, Todd Bentley, Heidi Baker, Lou Engle, Francis Frangipane and
even Peter Wagner. But we will encounter all of them in one way or another
when we discuss specific topics.

INFLUENCE AND REACH
The question that I would like to turn to now is: How influential is the NAR?
What is its reach? Is the NAR simply a fringe movement within perhaps the
more extreme sector of charismatic Christianity? If this is the case, we should
not worry too much about it. Or is the NAR’s influence much wider?

The NAR is not a fringe movement. It is worldwide in scope and it boasts of
millions of participants. In fact, according to the Atlas of Global Christianity
published in 2009, the NAR is responsible for the phenomenal growth of
Christianity in the Global South. It is especially influential among Independent
or Post-denominational churches, which have about 369 million members. Some
even predict that Christians influenced in one way or another by the NAR will
outnumber traditional Protestants. In the United States, NAR churches can be
found in almost every city and town. And in Singapore, a few churches and
Christian organisations have embraced NAR teachings like Dominionism and
the Seven Mountains. Furthermore, NAR teachings are also infiltrating mainline
churches that are neither Pentecostal nor charismatic.

The NAR exploits to the fullest the media and the internet to spread their
doctrines and influence. Let’s begin with the media. There are several big-players
in Christian media that supports the NAR by publishing articles and prophecies
written by its apostles and prophets. This includes the large book publishing
company called Charisma House. One of the most important NAR communiqué
is the popular magazine Charisma, that has a wide readership. Charisma also has
a digital magazine that ranks among the top five digital magazines. Another
major magazine that promotes the NAR is Ministries Today. In 2004, the
magazine held a conference in Florida to explore the ‘Five-Fold Ministry’.
Among the members of the consultation were NAR leaders, including Peter
Wagner.

The NAR has its own publishing arm, Destiny Image Publishers, which was
founded by Don Nori after God allegedly told him to set up a company that
would ‘publish the prophets’. Destiny Image has published numerous works by
NAR prophets and apostles including books by Bill Johnson, Bill Hamon,
Jonathan Welton, Ché Ann and James Goll.

Furthermore, NAR authors have also tried to go mainstream by publishing their
books with Evangelical Publishers like Thomas Nelson and Bethany House and
by having their titles listed on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles. In addition, the
NAR has also exerted its influence through TV. Christian Broadcasting networks
like Trinity Broadcasting Network and Daystar have been promoting the
apostles and prophets associated with the NAR. In addition, the NAR has also
established its own TV network, GOD TV, which is the fastest growing Christian
network in the States. Through their broadcasts, NAR prophets and apostles are
able to peddle their teachings and spread their prophetic utterances worldwide.

Some people ask me if I rely on the Internet to do my research for these talks on
the NAR and the hyper-charismatics. Of course, I do! In fact, I rely quite heavily
on the Internet for my research on the NAR! This is because NAR apostles and
prophets have exploited the Internet to the fullest to advance their teachings,
prophecies and practices. The Internet is also the place where publicity for NAR
conferences and seminars can be found. The Identity Network is a clearinghouse
set up by the NAR that collates and emails fresh prophesies to members
around the globe. The Elijah List does very much the same thing. In fact, the
Elijah List has also started Prophetic TV, which is an internet television show
that regularly features NAR leaders like Chuck Pierce, Graham Cooke and
Patricia King.

The revivals conducted by Todd Bentley in Lakeland, Florida, are also streamed
on the Internet and they have attracted more than a million viewers. Through
the Internet, NAR leaders are able to reach many who may not have the time or
the means to attend Bill Johnson’s Church in Bethel or Todd Bentley’s revival
meetings in Lakeland. The Internet has brought the NAR into their homes.

One of the strategies of the NAR is to try to mainstream the movement. It is bad
optics if the NAR is perceived as either a sectarian or fringe movement within
American evangelicalism. Thus, in order to be recognised as mainstream, the
NAR must have the support of recognised ‘celebrities’ in American evangelical
Christianity. In the past number of years, the NAR has invited prominent
evangelical speakers and authors like Dallas Willard and even Josh McDowell to
speak at their meetings. For example, in 2013 IHOP organised a 70-hour global
prayer summit that featured not only luminaries in the evangelical and
Protestant churches like McDowell and Willard but also people like Loren
Cunningham, Dick Eastman, and Steve Douglas. Evangelical organisations like
Mission America Coalition, Prison Fellowship and Campus Crusade were also
involved. Well-known pastors like Jack Hayford have also been invited to speak
at NAR events and endorse books authored by NAR leaders.

One of the most significant strategies of the NAR that we must take very
seriously is its attempt to influence children and the younger generation.
Between 1975 and 1983, the revered prophet Bob Jones claimed to have received
over one hundred revelations about the role that children and the younger
generation will play in the end-times. In one of his prophesies, Jones declared
that:

… this will be the end generation that is foreknown to inherit all
things. Their children will attain a level of the Spirit that they
themselves will not attain. Their children and grandchildren will
possess the Spirit without measure for they are the best of all the
generations that have been upon the face of the earth. They will move
in the supernatural as never before.

NAR prophets like Bill Hamon, Rick Joyner and Catherine Brown have declared
that God is raising up a ‘Samuel Generation’, a group of anointed children that
will lead God’s end-time army into victory. NAR advocates like Becky Fischer have run successful camps for children called the Jesus Camp, which trained
children how to fight the end-time spiritual battle. The Jesus Camp generated
some controversy when children were made to dress in army fatigues complete
with camouflages and hand-held mock weapons as if engaging in war. Kids in
Ministry International is another organisation that describes itself as an
‘apostolic, prophetic ministry focused on equipping and training a generation of
boys and girls to walk in the supernatural power of God’. IHOP offers week long
Signs and Wonders Camps for children aged between six to 12. These children
are trained in prayer, spiritual warfare and spiritual authority.

Apart from the Jesus Camp and IHOP, Bill Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding,
is also at the forefront of training children to operate in the supernatural. They
have developed curriculum like Kids Carrying the Kingdom to train children
from six to 11 to heal the sick and prophesy. In Bethel Church, children’s classes
have been described as ‘practice rooms for the supernatural’. There, children as
young as six are taught how to communicate with angels and take trips to
heaven. They are also taught how to interpret each other’s dreams and how to
cast out demons. In fact, children are even taught how to raise the dead. In these
sessions, some children will wrap themselves with tissue paper pretending to be
dead while others will practise raising them from the dead. Critics have argued
that such approaches are troubling because it is tantamount to indoctrination.
Children and the young are exposed to an erroneous and even paganistic
distortion of Christianity.

Finally, NAR leaders are infiltrating the political arena in the United States,
especially among conservative right-wing politicians and political groups, with
their particular political agenda. NAR apostles exert their perceived spiritual
authority, while NAR prophets prophesy about political events and outcomes.
There are also attempts to influence voters through their massive prayer
campaigns. For example, before the 2012 election in the States, the United States
Reformation Prayer Network under the prophet Cindy Jacobs distributed a
prayer guide that essentially opposed the California labour unions. The prophet
Lou Engles ‘prayed over’ former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the 2009 rally
in Virginia called ‘Rediscovering God in America’. Gingrich also appointed NAR
apostle Dutch Sheets to sit on his Faith Leaders Coalition.

This infiltration into politics is of course in line with the NAR’s Dominionist and
Seven Mountains doctrines. In fact, prophet and apostle Rick Joyner prophesied
that God will be raising up what he calls an ‘elite Delta force’, a ‘spiritual special
force’ made up of apostles and prophets that will be deployed throughout the
world to advance God’s earthly kingdom. In this vein, Rick Joyner is leading a
politically active organisation called the Oak Initiative that was founded in 2009.
The purpose of this organisation is to mobilise Christian leaders to work in every
level of government. They believe that in so doing they are able to bring about a
spiritual awakening in America. The organisation boasts that within months of
its founding it has a presence in all fifty states in America and in more than fifty
nations throughout the world.

NEO-PAGAN PRACTICES
Finally, let me say a few things about the practices that the NAR encourages.
Apart from the dangerously erroneous doctrines, NAR leaders have also
introduced practices that can be best described as ‘neo-pagan’. Time does not
permit us to discuss in detail the emergence of neo-paganism or esotericism in
the West in this postmodern era. Suffice to say that secularism has not succeeded
in making religions or religiosity obsolete although it has generated much
dissatisfaction and distrust in organised and institutional religions like
Christianity. What has emerged as a result is a new religiosity, one that is not
defined by the strictures of traditional religion, but that is amorphous and
centred on spiritual experiences instead of dogma. This new religiosity is
manifested in different forms and known by different names: New Age,
shamanism, esotericism, etc.

The leaders of the NAR have blended some of these elements into their teachings
and practices. This has resulted in what the Mennonite theologian John Howard
Yoder has called a ‘bastard faith’, the distorting miscegenation of Christianity
and alien influences. Time does not permit us to examine all these elements –
there are simply too many of them! I propose to bring only three to your
attention.

The first manifestation of this syncretism is the obsessive fixation with angels
that we find among many NAR leaders. The most prominent of them is the
revivalist Todd Bentley, whose ministry has been repeatedly endorsed by Peter
Wagner, despite the scandals. Bentley places so much emphasis on angels in his
meetings that Christ and the Gospel are often eclipsed. Like his mentor, the
disgraced prophet Bob Jones, Bentley claims that his entire teaching and
ministry is inspired and guided by angels. Bentley mentioned one angel in
particular, Emma, whom he described as ‘beautiful and young – about 22 years
old – but old at the same time’. Bentley claimed that in the middle of a service,
he saw Emma gliding ‘into the room, emitting brilliant light and colours.’ Bill
Johnson, Patricia King and Mike Bickle also put a lot of emphasis on angelic
guidance in their ministry.

This pre-occupation with angels is antithetical to the testimony of the Bible.
While the Bible portrays angels as God’s messengers, it nowhere encourages
God’s servants to cultivate conscious relationships with them. Furthermore,
angels do their work mostly behind the scenes, and appear only rarely and only
at very crucial points in salvation history. However, in the occult world, seers
and mediums are often dependent on their spirit-guides to give them prescience
and to guide them in their work. In some New Age circles, these spirit-guides are
also called ‘angels.’ However, they are not angels at all. Rather, they are demonic
beings that give these mediums their powers while enslaving them. The
obsession of these NAR leaders with angels and their dependence on these spirit
beings to guide them in their ministry is unbiblical. It is more akin to occult and
pagan practices. Furthermore, it also makes them vulnerable to demonic
deception and influence.

Another example of the influence of neo-paganism in the practices of some NAR
leaders – perhaps the most bizarre – is ‘grave-sucking’. NAR leaders believe that
the anointing of the great servants of God in the past – men like Smith
Wigglesworth and women like Kathryn Kuhlman – are still with them even
though they are dead. The anointing is in their bones. So these charismatic
leaders teach that if you wish to increase your anointing you should visit the
graves of these deceased servants of God and ‘suck up’ their anointing. In his
article entitled ‘Recovering Our Spiritual Inheritance’, Bill Johnson explains it
like this:

There are anointings, mantles, revelations and mysteries that have
lain unclaimed, literally where they were left, because the generations
that walked in them never passed them on. I believe it’s possible for
us to recover realms of anointing, realms of insight, realms of God
that has been untended for decades simply by choosing to reclaim
them and perpetuate them for future generations.

In the same article, under the sub-title ‘Where Do we Start?’, Johnson writes:

We can begin by recovering secrets, mysteries, mantles, and realms of
God that has been abandoned and ignored for decades, some of them
for centuries. They just lie there waiting for someone in this
generation to come along and claim them. What do you think the
Lord has been doing in recent days, when he stirs people to write
books about ‘re-digging the wells?’ God is saying, ‘There are things
lying there, mysteries to be understood, inheritances that are
untended, uncared for, unoccupied. But they’re for the taking.

Johnson’s Bethel Church is known to organise expeditions for members to visit
the graves of servants of God in their hope to claim of their anointing.

Proponents of this practice often appeal to 2 Kings 13:21 for biblical support.
The passage reads: ‘And as a man was being buried, behold a marauding band
was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the
man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood to his feet’. This is a story
of a miracle. A dead man came to life when he touched the bones of Elisha. That
is all there is to it. The resuscitated man did not receive Elisha’s mantle. He did
not receive Elisha’s anointing. He did not become a prophet or a worker of signs
and wonders. To use this passage as the basis for the practice of ‘grave-sucking’
is a clear example of the kind of Scripture twisting that is common among NAR
leaders.

‘Grave sucking’ is associated with the occult, and not with Christianity. It is quite
a common practice among shamans. Shamans are known to meditate in the
night at the graves of dead Shamans in order to get their powers. Together with
the rise of the occult, Satanism and New Age, there is a corresponding
resurgence of shamanism today. Some shamanic practices have seeped into the
church unnoticed. There are some who are even talking about shamanic
Christianity, and there are others who hold Jesus up as the Shaman par
excellence.

Finally, there are NAR leaders who explicitly encourage the embrace of New Age
practices in their writings. For example, in his 2006 book Dreaming With God,
Johnson explicitly asserts that it is mistaken to think that New Age practices are
from the devil. Rather, he says, they are ‘the tools that God has given us for
success in life and ministry’. In The Physics of Heaven (2012), Jonathan Welton –
who claims to be a seer – argues that practices like ‘spirit guide, trances,
meditation, auras, power objects, clairvoyance, clairaudience, and more …
actually belong to the Church…’ The New Age movement have stolen them.
Thus, he adds: ‘’Every time a counterfeit shows up, take it as the Lord presenting
you with an opportunity to reclaim … God’s stolen property’.

So, what these NAR leaders are effectively saying is that occult practices actually
belong to the Church. Christians should practise trances, auras, clairvoyance and
all the rest. But that which NAR leaders are urging Christians to do is exactly
what the Bible prohibits and condemns. In Deuteronomy 18:9-14, we read:
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you,
you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those
nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his
son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination
or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a
medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for
whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And
because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out
before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for
these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortunetellers
and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not
allowed you to do this.

Time does not permit me to discuss other practices associated with the NAR like
angel orbs, gold dust, spirit portals, teleportation, etc. But I think I have given
enough material for you to form a picture of what the NAR is about.

CONCLUSION
Let me bring this talk to a conclusion. The NAR is a movement that began in the
States that seeks to reinstate the offices of the Apostles and the Prophets. It teaches that in the last days, God is raising a new breed of foundational apostles
and prophets that will bring the church to perfection and prepare her for the
return of the Lord. The teachings of the NAR, as we have seen, are not new.
They are fundamentally taken from a heretical movement in the 1940s called the
Latter Rain. The Assemblies of God has officially denounced this movement,
even though it emerged from the soil of American Pentecostalism. The NAR has
repackaged its teachings and emphases and ‘marketed’ it to mainstream
churches. The reach and influence of the NAR should not be underestimated. It
has coalitions in 45 countries, including Singapore.

The Church and her leaders must be aware of the teachings and practices of the
NAR and the way in which they have subtly made their way into our churches.
Some Christians are still obsessed with angels, gold dust or holy laughter. As
church pastors and leaders, we should be vigilant. We should gently warn
members of our congregation about these erroneous teachings and practices.
And we must of course never promote them ourselves.

Whenever I speak on this issue, I tell my audience that this is not about
charismatics versus non-charismatics. This is not about cessationism versus
continuationism. This is about warning the Church of false teachings and
practices. It is about preventing Christians from going astray. It is about loving
and guiding our flock, the people whom God has entrusted to us. It is about
fulfilling our responsibilities as custodians of the deposit of faith we have
received from the Apostles.

FOR FURTHER READING
Geivett, R. Douglas & Pivec, Holly. 2018. A New Apostolic Reformation? A
Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement. Lexham Press.
Geivett, R. Douglas & Pivec, Holly. 2018. God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the
Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. Lexham Press.
Geivett, R. Douglas & Pivec, Holly. 2022. Counterfeit Kingdom: The Dangers of
New Revelation, New Prophets, and New Age Practices in the Church.
B&H Books.
Hanley, P.J. 2017. They Call Themselves Apostles: How Revival Churches Have
Been Hijacked by the New Apostolic Reformation. Banner of Love
Ministries.
Moore, Richard. 2018. Divergent Theology: An Inquiry into the Theological
Characteristics of the Word of Faith, Third Wave Movement and the New
Apostolic Reformation. CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
Newton, David. 2017. Entertaining Deception: The New Apostolic Reformation
Coming to a Calvary Chapel Near You. Insights Publishing House.
Osborne, Frederick. 2016. The New Apostolic Reformation: An Assessment of the
New Apostolic Reformation from Toronto to Redding. CreateSpace
Independent Publishing.


Dr Roland Chia is Chew Hock Hin Professor at Trinity Theological College (Singapore) and Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute for Public Christianity.