NEW APOSTOLIC REFORMATION
NEW APOSTOLIC REFORMATION TIMELINE
1906-1909: The Azusa Street Revival, commonly regarded as a birthplace of the global Pentecostal Movement, takes place in Los Angeles, California.
1947: The New Order of the Latter Rain (Latter Rain) caused controversy within North American Pentecostalism, including its call to restore the offices of prophets and apostles in the church.
1960: The birth of neo-Pentecostalism, commonly called the Charismatic Movement or the “second wave” of the North American Pentecostal movement ushered Pentecostal beliefs and practices into mainline Christian denominations and launched scores of new independent Pentecostal ministries and churches.
1980s: The Kansas City Prophets introduced the offices of prophets and apostles to neo-Pentecostalism at the onset of a “third wave” of Pentecostal revivals in North America.
1992: A Pentecostal revival known as the Toronto Blessing begins in a Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada with nightly revival services that attracted thousands of pilgrims from throughout the world.
1994: C. Peter Wagner provided the moniker and description of the “New Apostolic Reformation” said to reform Christianity with the restoration of the offices of prophet and apostles as found in the earliest years of Christianity.
1995: GOD-TV, a global television network that promoted the teachings of the New Apostolic Reformation, was established, now reaching a reported 200 nations.
2011: The New Apostolic Reformation made news in the secular press as some conservative Republican presidential candidates were linked to the movement.
Although C. Peter Wagner, [Image at right] retired Fuller Theological Seminary professor and the chancellor emeritus of Wagner Leadership Institute, has been credited with founding the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the movement cannot be attributed to a single founder. It is more accurate to identify Wagner as a leader in the NAR who recognized its emergence within Christianity and who proclaimed its impact to be as significant as that of the Protestant Reformation. Wagner (2011) describes his role in the NAR as being that of an “intellectual godfather” – as one “who might have been the first to observe the movement, give a name to it, and describe its characteristics as I saw them. When this began to come together through my research in 1993, I was professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, where I taught for 30 years.”
In the 1980s, Wagner began to note a shift in Pentecostalism that he termed the “third wave,” a shift that would contain within it the seeds of the NAR. The history of American Pentecostalism has commonly been described in terms of three developments or “waves.” The so-called “first wave” began with a revival that occurred on Azusa Street in Los Angeles during 1906-1909, a revival that birthed several historic Pentecostal denominations including the Assemblies of God, the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and the Church of God in Christ (Robeck 2006). Visitors to Azusa Street carried the Pentecostal message and experience of speaking in tongues, physical healing, prophecy and miracles said to accompany the “baptism in the Holy Ghost” throughout North America and beyond.
Although Pentecostalism birthed several denominations with defined doctrine and organizational structures during the first wave of the movement, a closer examination reveals many ”pentecostalisms” within a larger religious movement that is web-like and reticulate. With an emphasis on religious experience, its history has been riddled with revivals and fresh accounts of proclaimed spiritual gifts and affective rituals. A historic revival that spread from North Battlefield, Sask. (Canada) throughout the United States in the late 1940s proved to be a reckoning force that challenged the institutional forces within Pentecostalism some fifty years after its birth on Azusa Street.
Sowing seeds for fresh revivals and a second wave of the Pentecostal movement, The New Order of the Latter Rain was not well received by denominational Pentecostalism. Among its controversial teachings was its emphasis on reviving the office and ministries of prophets and apostles, one that that found acceptance in sectors of neo-pentecostalism and proved foundational for the emergence of the NAR. Although Latter Rain teachings were condemned by most first-wave Pentecostal leaders, some of its teachings influenced the “second wave” as neo-pentecostalism swept into traditional Protestant and Catholic congregations during the 1960s and 1970s (Poloma 1982). By the mid-1980s, the second wave of Pentecostal revitalization seems to have run its course leaving only traces of this once influential movement, but not before releasing a “third wave” of neo-pentecostal experiences and rituals.
Beneath the radar screen of the second wave that ushered Pentecostalism into mainstream Christianity, another revival was in the making. A youth movement known as the “Jesus People” swept the beaches of California in the 1970s with revival experiences that would spread across North America (DiSabatino 1999). John Wimber, a former rock musician turned minister, would learn from the revival and soon became one of its spokesmen. [Image at right] He brought the young hippie converts to Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel where he was on staff (Miller 1997); but when it became apparent that the hippie charismatics were not a good fit for the Evangelical congregation, Wimber brought them into an independent church founded by Ken Gulliksen known as The Vineyard and became the pastor. Wimber’s practice of and conferences on the miraculous “signs and wonders” soon grew in popularity. The belief in and practice of supernatural “signs and wonders” proved valuable for church growth, and Wimber’s Vineyard would soon become a new denomination, the Association of Vineyard Churches (Jackson 1999).
Through a congregational experience in the late 1970s, Wimber came to accept glossolalia as a bona fide “spiritual gift,” but he never made it the litmus test for experiencing the baptism in the Holy Spirit as it was in much of historic Pentecostalism. Instead of giving “speaking in tongues” the significant doctrinal position it enjoyed in most first and second wave Pentecostal churches, Wimber’s theology emphasized other “signs and wonders,” especially divine healing and prophecy. C. Peter Wagner’s popular teachings on church growth and John Wimber’s on the power of “signs and wonders” made them a formidable team as they introduced third-wave Pentecostalism to Pasadena’s Fuller Theological Seminary students. Wagner proved adept in presenting third-wave teachings to lay and clergy academics, while Wimber led many second-wavers into a third-wave of Pentecostalism that promoted miraculous “signs and wonders” to a new generation. During the 1980s Wimber became a sought-after neo-pentecostal speaker at conferences and churches throughout North America and the United Kingdom (Wilkinson and Althouse 2014).
It is among the neo-pentecostal third-wavers that the NAR moved out of the shadows and into the spotlight with Wagner (2010) proclaiming boldly that the NAR “represents the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation.” His New Apostolic Reformation is not a new concept. Wagner traced its origins to the African Independent Church Movement in 1900, the Chinese House Church Movement beginning in 1976, and the independent charismatic movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Although the New Apostolic Reformation is often defined in terms of the restoration of the office of apostle that according to Wagner had ceased with the early church but is now being restored, in theory and practice the NAR umbrella is much bigger. As we will see the NAR includes recognized leaders who might be regarded by others as prophets but who themselves eschew the NAR teaching about apostolic restoration.
As with any amorphous movement, especially one that goes global, the Wimber-Wagner account is not the only narrative of NAR history. In Great Britain, for example, the NAR developed within a different social context, with different key players and influenced by different historical events (Kay 2007). C. Peter Wagner remains a key player in the American NAR, but he makes no claim to be the founder of an amorphous global movement that “is not an organization” and for which “no one can join or carry a card.” He claims only to be the one who described the emergence and development of networks of churches and independent ministries throughout the world that share a vision to further a Holy Spirit reformation.
Flames of the NAR were fueled in the 1990s and into a new millennium as new revival networks were birthed and old ones expanded that revitalized Pentecostalism. A particularly significant event took place in the Toronto Airport Vineyard in January 1994 that the press in Great Britain called the “Toronto Blessing.” A nightly revival took place in a small church adjacent to the Toronto airport that drew multiple thousands of visitors from around the world to its Toronto location for over twelve years. [Image at right] “Signs and wonders” were not only a part of each night’s service, but the revival with its paranormal experiences spread beyond church walls into local restaurants, hotels and parking lots (and from Toronto throughout North America and around the world). Apostles, prophets and their followers gravitated to the revival as did Pentecostal pilgrims from scores of foreign countries nightly. The Toronto Blessing was a revival that was not only experienced on location, but one that was carried to many home churches with sites for a time that spanned the globe (Poloma 2003).
Given the countless networks of independent churches and ministries around the globe that identify with or who are identified with the NAR, it is not surprising that its beliefs and doctrines are far from uniform. The NAR correctly has been equated with the Pentecostal approach to Christianity by commentators and observers. And like the Azusa Street Revival that is commonly said to have birthed American Pentecostalism or the Toronto Blessing that revitalized it, the NAR can be described as Pentecostalism on steroids. Whatever else it is, the NAR involves Christian religious experiences deemed to be biblical rather than a new doctrine, religious experiences that are easily relegated to stories of days gone by. North American Pentecostalism has always required an alternate supernatural worldview that promotes religious affect (Poloma 1995). With succeeding generations and as Pentecostals moved up the social ladder, less emphasis is placed on the experiential power of the Holy Spirit and gifts of prophecy, healing, miracles, glossolalia and other paranormal spiritual experiences to better align with Evangelicalism’s focus on correct doctrine (Poloma 1989). The NAR, with extensive global links throughout the world, can be viewed as a movement to revitalize Pentecostalism’s alternate worldview with its focus on supernatural forces. By activating the power of spiritual “signs and wonders” leaders teach that believers are equipped with the power of the Holy Spirit to change the world.
I have sometimes asked leaders who would appear to share its worldview whether or not they consider themselves to be a part of the NAR. A common reply is, “It depends what you mean by the NAR.” Descriptive books, articles and sermons abound about NAR beliefs and practices, but its loosely-structured and overlapping networks are unlikely to produce official statements of faith as found in established denominations. American leaders who identify with the NAR would agree that they share the core the beliefs of conservative Evangelical Christians as rooted in the Bible. According to C. Peter Wagner (2011), “We adhere to the major tenets of the Reformation: the authority of Scripture, justification by faith, and the priesthood of all believers. But the quality of church life, the governance of the church, the worship, the theology of prayer, the missional goals, the optimistic vision for the future, and other features constitute quite a change from traditional Protestantism.”
Experiencing the divine in everyday life is more descriptive of the NAR than listing carefully crafted doctrine. Wagner (1997:xx) succinctly summarizes the third-wave experiences basic to the NAR as follows: “The desire of those in the third wave is to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in healing the sick, casting out demons, receiving prophecies, and participating in other charismatic-type manifestations without disturbing the current philosophy of ministry governing these congregations.” Conferences abound on how to receive and practice these spiritual gifts with leaders writing books that fill tables at the back of auditoriums and church bookstores. Leaders, including Wagner, contend that understanding the NAR requires a paradigm shift that includes a worldview that acknowledges a different way of knowing, one that will be more fully describe in the section on ritual.
Once an admitted skeptic, Wagner (1997:xxi) credits Bill Hamon, founder of Christian International and its networks throughout the globe, for bringing him through a “paradigm shift” to the third-wave and the NAR. Wagner claims that he “moved from traditional Christianity to an openness to the person and to the full ministry of the Holy Spirit” in part through his reading Hamon’s Prophets and Personal Prophecy (1987) and Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God (1997). Hamon’s works not only impacted Wagner, but they can be counted as foundational for the stream of populist theologies that are published and preached by NAR’s prophets and apostles. The original “reformation” alluded to in the moniker “New Apostolic Reformation” dates back some 500 years to the Protestant Reformation that swept over Europe. Much of what its contemporary followers are now seeking to make “new” is the restoration of the five-fold ministries and offices found in book of Ephesians (Ephes. 4:11-13), ministries of pastors, teachers, evangelists, apostles and prophets. While the first three ministries are said to have been gradually restored over the centuries following the Protestant Reformation, prophets and apostles are only now being restored to their original importance. According to Hamon, the five-fold ministries are nothing less than “an extension of Christ’s headship ministry in the Church.”
The office of the apostles is believed to be the last and admittedly the most controversial of the five-fold ministries to be restored. According to Wagner and some other NAR leaders, it is the most important. Apostles are charged with the task of “foundation laying,” providing the cornerstone for the other offices and ministries. The task of an apostle includes “establishing new churches, correcting error, establishing proper order and structure, and acting as an oversight ministry that fathers other ministries” (Hamon (1997:279). Apostles are central for small independent churches and ministries as well as for much larger established NAR networks. Being distinct in theory but overlapping in practice, well-known NAR apostles and prophets often tag-team with each other to provide leadership both within and among different networks.
Less controversial is the ministry of the prophets. Prophets and prophecy have played a significant role in religions throughout human history, including Judaism, the early Christian Church, and in diverse Protestant denominations. Robeck (2002:1007) notes that “the church [in the first several centuries AD] was no stranger to continuing prophetic activity” and that “room was made within the church structure for prophets to function on both itinerant and local levels.” However, where prophetic activity existed in post-Constantinean Christianity, it has been circumscribed, marginalized and often demonized. Few traditions have been able to sustain the experiential prophetic practices where God reportedly speaks to humankind. Whatever else it is, history suggests that prophecy may be dangerous to existing religious establishments (Poloma and Lee 2013a; 2013b).
Clearly there are differences in the modern understanding and practices of prophecy that can be related to the understanding and practice of spiritual gifts by the NAR. Prophecy was accepted as the domain of specially gifted and recognized prophets living out what the NAR would term a prophetic office. For most Pentecostals, however, prophecy has also been regarded as a gift available to all Spirit-filled Christians as they believe it was in the early church. There are differences, however, in what God may be speaking to the masses and to recognized prophets. While all can engage in prophetic “forth-telling” or hearing from God, the office and ministry of prophecy also includes “foretelling” of future events. As will be discussed in a later section on issues and challenges (discussing John Wimber’s distancing himself from the network known as the Kansas City Prophets in the late 1980s), it is highly unlikely that Wimber would have stood with C. Peter Wager and the NAR on the restoration of the office of the prophet.
In sum, it can be said that prophecy as commonly understood in NAR networks involves prediction or foretelling future events. This face of prophecy is most likely to be practiced by the relatively few who are recognized by followers who have been divinely ordained to the “office of a prophet.” Prophecy as practiced by most Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals (and as often taught by NAR prophets to the people in the pews), however, is more likely to take the form of forth-telling rather than foretelling. It is regarded as a gift of divine grace available (at least in some degree) to all believers, enabling them to speak or act out messages believed to be from God that edify, encourage and bless others.
Coupled with the core teaching about five-fold ministries and the offices of apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist, and teacher as widely recognized NAR teachings is the controversial belief in “dominionism.” Some NAR leaders admonish believers to “take dominion” of the secular world and to transform it into the Kingdom of God using their spiritual gifts. Whether it in the realm of politics, business and finance, education, administration or the arts, the message is to rely on the Holy Spirit to direct and empower followers to bring a piece of heaven into their daily activities. It is worthy of note that the emphasis is on a spiritual take-over rather than a political one, albeit politics can be read into the teaching. Wagner (2011) describes “dominionism” as follows:
This refers to the desires that some of my friends and I have to follow Jesus and to do what He wants. One of the things He does want He taught us to pray for in the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’ This means that we do our best to see that what we know is characteristic of heaven work its way into the warp and wool of our society here on earth.
In his book When Heaven Invades Earth Bill Johnson, founder of Bethel Church in Redding, California, offers a readable discussion and practical instructions for dominionism. He introduces the belief as follows (2003:32): “We were born to rule—rule over creation, over darkness—to plunder hell and establish the rule of Jesus wherever we go by preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. Kingdom means King’s domain. In the original purpose of God, mankind ruled over creation. Now that sin has entered the world, creation has been infected by darkness, namely: disease, sickness, afflicting spirits, poverty, natural disasters, demonic influence, etc. . . . . The invasion of God into impossible situations comes through a people who have received power from on high and learn to release it into the circumstances of life.”
In sum, with apostolic governance in order, NAR apostolic leaders believe it possible to usher in the kingdom of God by releasing divine power in what they call the “seven mountains of culture” (education, government, media, arts and entertainment, religion and family). [Image at right] The “seven mountains of culture” were derived from a vision of Youth With a Mission founder Loren Cunningham and affirmed by evangelical writer Francis Schaefer and evangelist Bill Bright in 1975. Originally presented as an evangelistic tool, a “way to reach people for God,” it has been adopted and adapted by some NAR apostles and leaders in their struggle to bring heaven down to earth.
Wagner provides a broad definition and description of the NAR that permits much of third wave neo-pentecostalism to be identified with at least some facets of the NAR. While many leaders of the first and second waves taught that the “new Pentecost” was a sign of the End-Times, the third wave is more focused on bringing heaven down to earth. Led by men (and some women) who are recognized as “apostles” and “prophets” the faith of followers is activated not only to transform the church but also to transform the larger society in which they live and work. At the heart of the process is what Bill Johnson calls a “transformed mind.” Believers are instructed to believe the impossible as they work to usher in the kingdom of God. “I have come to see,” says Johnson (2005:31), “that the normal Christian life means miracles, supernatural intervention, and revelation.”
Ritual practices and the experiences they generate arguably hold a key to the growth of global Pentecostalism with its estimated 600 million followers (Albrecht 1999). If the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) was about doctrine, the New Apostolic Reformation is about the power of Pentecostal experiences to empower changed lives and communities. These experiences can occur during private prayer as well as in larger gatherings, but they seem to assume a special quality during communal services. In NAR churches every worship service holds the potential to encounter God collectively and personally.
The NAR, however, would likely contest the use of the term “ritual” to describe its communal practices, preferring instead to frame them as “worship.” Pentecostals, including the NAR, have likened ritual to “prescribed, formal, spiritually empty liturgy of mainline churches” (Lindhardt, 2011, 2). “Worship,” on the other hand, “corresponds to a specific set of rituals in which participants express devotion to God and experience divine presence in the context of community” (Ingalls 2015:4). Yet there is a general and adaptable template found in NAR worship. It customarily begins with a rousing extended period of band-led singing followed by a minister’s sermon and an “activation” of the gifts of the spirit, especially prophecy and healing prayer. Whether a regular Sunday service or a large conference, believers seek and expect to experience the divine presence.
NAR has no book of prescribed worship practices, but regular Sunday services generally have three components: lively band music and singing, a sermon, and activation of the spiritual gifts. Worship (a term that can encompass all three ritual components) customarily opens with an extended time of congregational singing of contemporary music led by a band. The lyrics generally are either prayers to God or lyrics of God’s messages to the worshippers rather than songs about God. An observant participant will notice that usually there is a theme found in the presentation of the contemporary worship music, such as, singing about God’s love or presence, thanking God for His provisions or salvation, praying for more of the Holy Spirit and revival. Words are provided on a screen behind the band with new songs frequently taking stage and older ones resigned to history. Worship, however, is not to be confused with a Christian concert that entertains an audience; all congregants are encouraged to participate in ways they are comfortable (singing, shouting, dancing, hand raising, clapping, or even sitting quietly). For approximately thirty or more minutes without any other agenda the congregation sings and seeks to sense the divine presence in a palpable way.
It is believed that God inhabits the praise of His people, and that worshiping together in song releases the divine presence. Worship through music is arguably the most significant ritual practice whether in a large congregation, or a smaller community. In some congregations the time of worship through music leads into celebrating communion together heightening the unity that many may be experiencing through music. Prophetic words are given about different medical and emotional conditions that God reportedly wants to heal in the community, and congregants are then encouraged to pray in their own words for the needs of a person near them. In other services musical worship may directly give way to announcements and commemorative events, followed by congregants greeting each other and the “offering” or collection. Congregants are periodically reminded that the collection is also an integral part of worshiping God. A Bible-based sermon given by a minister or guest preacher lasting approximately thirty – forty minutes comprises the last part of a service, which may lead to activation of the spiritual gifts, particularly prophecy and healing. Opportunities to “impart” or “activate” the spiritual gifts may take place before the sermon (as illustrated by the common communion ritual) or the sermon may be used to launch an activation of the spiritual gifts in praying for one another. Many NAR churches have trained prayer teams who have taken classes in the activation of the spiritual gifts and who are gifted in ministering prayer for congregants.
In some ways this simple seemingly unscripted ritual, lasting approximately ninety minutes, resembles that of many evangelical churches as less formal Pentecostal practices have spilled over into Protestant churches. What differs is in the expressed expectation that God can “show up” in tangible ways, including prophecy, healing and (on occasion) flakes of gold, glory clouds, and other tangible forms that have been the subject of much critique by evangelical Protestants. Learning how to worship and to activate the spiritual gifts (to be pray-ers through which healing, prophecy and other gifts flow) are modeled in regular congregational services and showcased in extended conferences that are held throughout the country in churches, hotels, schools of ministry and retreat centers to provide a place for believers to receive blessings and an opportunity to learn how to minister them. Conferences, replete with workshops to teach and train, allow for more time for activation of the gifts, to minister to others and to be ministered to, than regularly scheduled Sunday services.
NAR congregations, however, are not satisfied with limiting their experiences of the divine to Sunday services. After being ministered to through prophetic words and divine healing in church services, conferences and classes, they are encouraged to take their spiritual gifts into the marketplaces of their daily lives. (Most of the six Revival Alliance networks described in the next section on organizational networks have established training schools in supernatural ministry where followers learn more about the “signs and wonders” and practice activation of the gifts.) Ritual practices often go beyond church walls. A local congregation may set up a prophecy tent at a Renaissance fair or a prayer booth at a village festival to minister the gifts of the spirit. Prophetic painters may take their talents to the local mall where they express prophetic messages through art. Younger members may set out in teams after praying together to evangelize through “treasure hunts.” In his widely-read book on the topic Kevin Dedmon (2007:18) writes: “ The Ultimate Treasure Hunt is about equipping, empowering, and activating the believer to live a naturally supernatural lifestyle of supernatural evangelism. The aim is to increase the level of confidence and competence, so that every believer is able to take responsibility in being the witness Jesus commanded.”
NAR worship rituals are embodied rituals, especially during revival times or congregational services during which the divine presence becomes more palpable. Worship tends to be dynamic and festive as participants sing, sway, jump, clap, wave banners and dance ( often described as “God is throwing a party”). Falling to the floor, bursts of uncontrolled laughter, speaking in tongues (glossolalia), violent jerking of head and limbs, practice of prayer tunnels, and other embodied responses are more likely to be observed during revival conferences than regular services. Third-wave revivals have long been a subject of critique by descendants of the first two Pentecostal waves as well as by Evangelical biblical cessationists. Cessationists contend that the miracles found in biblical accounts ended with the recorded scriptures. Divine healing, prophecy and the miraculous were intended only to jumpstart the church in the first century and cannot be found in the contemporary church.
There are a wide variety of organizations and styles of leadership in the global movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation that are impossible to capture in a single template. The million-member Yoido Full Gospel Church founded in Seoul, South Korea by emeritus pastor David Yonggi Cho with five members in 1958 and now pastored by Dr. Lee Young-Hoon, has been identified with the NAR. So has Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye’s The Redeemed Christian Church of God in Nigeria that boasts 5,000,000 members with 14,000 branches, including branches in Britain and the United States. Both share a Pentecostal worldview that stresses the power of the supernatural and apostolic top-down government, but neither of these churches mirrors NAR leadership and organization as found in smaller revival movements in North America. As Wagner (2011) has opined about the NAR label, “I am rather fascinated at the lists of individuals whom the media glibly connects with the NAR. I’m sure that some of them wouldn’t even recognize the term. In many cases, however, they would fit the NAR template, but since the NAR has no membership list they themselves would need to say whether they consider themselves affiliated or not.”
Leaders of the NAR claim supernatural empowerment is available to change the way church is done in what they believe is a post-denominational society. The NAR is not a new denomination and has no formal organization with a membership roster, statement of beliefs, or formal list of leaders, churches or ministries. Geivett and Pivec (2014:3) have developed some partial lists of NAR churches and ministries in North America, lists of NAR leaders who “have established numerous organizations and developed intentional networks with one another).” One list included over sixty names of apostles and their respective networks; another of some twenty prophetic elders and their organizations. Still another network, one that will be used for illustration in this section, is made up of six independent networks under a larger umbrella network known as the Revival Alliance (Geivett and Pivec:212-17) . It is worth noting that all of Revival Alliance leaders and their ministries have been significantly impacted by the Toronto Blessing revival.
Also worthy of note is that although NAR leaders may regard themselves as gifted apostles and prophets, the leaders in the Revival Alliance are on a first name basis with their followers. They are unlikely to flaunt titles, choosing to not to present themselves or to refer to each other using the nomenclature of “apostle” or “prophet” as commonly done in some networks. (In fact Heidi Baker, who holds a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Kings College in London, has been seen to creatively question the office of apostle through personal stories as only she can.) It is also significant that members of the Revival Alliance present their ministries as joint husband-wife endeavors, although in most cases it is the husband who originally launched the ministry as pastor of a congregation. The Revival Alliance includes the following couples: Bill and Beni Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California; John and Carol Arnott’s Catch the Fire Ministries in Ontario, Canada; Randy and DeAnne Clark’s Global Awakening in Mechanicsburg, PA; Georgian and Winnie Banov’s Global Celebration in Valrico, Florida; Che and Sue Ahn’s HRock in Pasadena, California; and Rolland and Heidi Baker’s Iris Global, with a U.S. office in Redding, California. Focusing on the Revival Alliance provides one example of a super-network that has emerged out of smaller networks as it intersects with other leaders, aligning with and launching still other networks, to promote the spiritual revitalization of Pentecostalism.
Global Legacy is the network of churches centered around Bill and Beni Johnson’s Bethel Church in Redding, California, a network that has launched other networks, including Cal Pierce’s Healing Room Ministries (Healing Room Ministries website 2016) and more recently Jesus Culture in Sacramento (Liebscher 2009; Jesus Culture website 2016). Global Legacy’s website credits Paul and Sue Manwaring with founding Global Legacy, but it is Bill and Beni Johnson who represent Global Legacy in the Revival Alliance (Global Legacy website 2016). Global Legacy describes its network as existing “to connect and encourage revivalists everywhere in every type of career of vocation to see the Kingdom of God advance.” It is a ministry centered on a theme developed in Bill Johnson’s writings and conferences: “Through relationship with others passionate about bringing heaven to earth, we aim to resource leaders in churches, ministries, organizations, spheres of influence and geographical regions to see transformation and experience worldwide revival” (Global Legacy website 2016). Bethel Redding’s School of Supernatural Ministries (Bethel Redding School of Supernatural Ministries website 2013) with its “2000 students representing 64 countries” represents another Bethel-based intersecting network for advancing the NAR, being “ designed to produce graduates who are full of love, integrity, confidence and honor and are able to walk in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit” (Bethel Redding School of Supernatural Ministries 2013)
John and Carol Arnott were the pastors of a small church plant known as the Toronto Airport Vineyard when the historic Toronto Blessing revival broke out in January 1994. For over a decade the ongoing revival and conferences brought pilgrims from around the world to taste of the “Toronto Blessing” (Poloma 2003; Steingard 2014; Wilkinson and Althouse 2014). After being dismissed by John Wimber from the Association of Vineyard Churches in 1996, the name of the church was changed to Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and finally to Catch the Fire. The network has been described as follows: “Catch The Fire is a family of churches and ministries worldwide, that was birthed as a result of the incredible revival that began in Toronto in 1994. Today Catch the Fire encompasses a growing network of churches, a college with International Schools of Ministry, a missions program and events running all over the world.” In 2006, John and Carol Arnott turned the pastorate of the congregation with “many campuses all across the Greater Toronto Area” to long-time associates Steve and Sandra Long. Core values of the congregation are “hearing God’s voice, inner-healing, the Father’s love, and being empowered in the Holy Spirit” (Catch the Fire website 2011). An international network of Catch the Fire churches is known as Partners in Harvest; churches who do not wish to leave denominational churches may join a network known as Friends in Harvest (Partners in Harvest website n.d.).
Randy Clark, a Vineyard pastor in St. Louis, Missouri, is recognized as the minister who launched the Toronto Blessing when he was invited by John Arnott to preach at the Toronto Airport Vineyard on January 20, 1994. The Toronto church had been praying for revival when Clark, who had recently received a spiritual empowerment through the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne (River Ministries International website 2016), ministered to some 120 members of Arnott’s church on January 24, 1994. Manifest embodied signs of revival filled the small church. Scores of different ministers largely from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, would preach and minister during the nightly revival services in Toronto for over a decade with Clark returning to pastor his Vineyard church in St. Louis. Although he would frequently visit the Toronto revival, Clark soon began to launch a healing ministry and revival network. He has been succinctly described as “a small-town pastor in the 1980s when John Wimber spoke a prophetic word over him predicting his ministry would one day help people worldwide experience the supernatural power of God” (Sparks and Anderson, 2015: 21). Randy and his wife DeAnne established an independent network known as the Apostolic Network of Global Awakening (ANGA), described as “a teaching, healing and impartation ministry with a heart for the nations.” Clark earned a doctorate from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio where he researched the efficacy of healing prayer as his dissertation topic (Sparks and Anderson 2015). ANGA’s ministries continue to focus on healing and evangelism, including international mission trips, healing and prophetic conferences, schooling that trains and activates divine healing, and teaching on the Wagner Leadership Institute’s online campus (Global Awakening website 2015).
Che Ahn and his wife Sue had recently started Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California (now known as HRock Church) when he experienced a touch of revival at John Wimber’s Anaheim Vineyard Church in southern California. After a trip to the Toronto Airport Vineyard, revival broke out in his Pasadena church in 1994, and the congregation soon began hosting nightly meetings and revival conferences on California’s West Coast. Ahn had been a student of C. Peter Wagner, earning his masters and doctoral degrees from Fuller Theological Seminary. He became active in the Wagner Leadership Organization founded by Wagner in 1998 to provide “training in practical ministry” and promising “a living, functioning impartation and activation from the Holy Spirit to walk in their divine destiny” (Wagner Leadership Institute 2015). Ahn is also CEO of The Call, a youth prayer network founded and headed by his former associate pastor and prophet, Lou Engle. Ahn has also established a global network as founder and president of Harvest International Ministry, “a worldwide apostolic network of over 5,000 churches in over thirty-five nations with the common vision of ‘Changing Lives, Transforming Cities, and Discipling Nations (HRock Church website 2016).
Georgian and Winnie Banov are founders of Global Celebration, and they travel extensively conducting revival meetings and conferences worldwide. Georgian, a rock musician who fled communist Bulgaria in the 1970s, made his way to California, where the former atheist experienced conversion. It was while with the Jesus People that Georgian says he was “baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire” (Global Celebration website 2016). The global nature of Global Celebration can be seen in the description provided for their ministry: “there are now several orphanages directly under the Banovs’ care in Nicaragua and India, plus five Global Celebration sponsored child rescue centers in Southeast Asia (Burma, Thailand and Cambodia). They have also adopted the entire first grade class (200 students) in Mozambique and have committed to pay for their meals, education, school uniforms and supplies all the way through to the twelfth grade. Rescue the One also actively supports partners and friends who rescue children from temple prostitution in India, and from the sex trade industry in Thailand and in the Philippines, and from the drug cartels in Mexico” (Global Celebration website 2016).
Rolland and Heidi Baker began Iris Ministries, Inc. (now Iris Global) in 1980. They have served as missionaries in Asia, England, and now Mozambique for over 25 years, but it was the Toronto Blessing that propelled them into an international spotlight. As burned-out missionaries to Mozambique in the mid-1990s, they had little to show for their new and latest missionary work in Africa. Rolland would be the first to travel to Toronto for spiritually refreshment; Heidi would follow and would experience prophecy and empowerment far beyond her expectations. Randy Clark was ministering at the Toronto revival during Heidi’s first visit and (having never met her before) he prophetically proclaimed: “The blind will see. The crippled will walk. The deaf will hear. The dead will be raised, and the poor will hear the good news.” It was one of several prophecies Clark would give to her that predated the phenomenal success of Iris Global. Rolland and Heidi’s visits to Toronto seemed to empower the couple and to provide support as they watched their early set backs in Mozambique grow into an international ministry (Poloma and Lee 2013b). Iris Global has reported starting thousands of churches in Africa and caring for tens of thousands of orphans, including “medical clinics, Bible colleges, small businesses and construction projects.” Although the ministry started in Mozambique, Iris Global is now found in “more than 30 other countries, including Sudan, Brazil and India” (Soars, 2016:20). It presently has over thirty-five bases in about twenty nations led by teams of missionaries and local leaders (Iris Global website 2016).
Presenting abridged descriptions of the Revival Alliance and some of its interfacing networks is able to provide only a small and partial picture of the global movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation. The organized churches and ministries themselves remain in flux as do the fluid networks that loosely connect them. At the helm of the NAR are uncounted leaders and followers who believe they hear from and experience God. At its core is an alternative supernatural worldview that insists experiencing the divine presence and power of the Holy Spirit is normal Christianity.
Arguably the central tenet and the most controversial marker of the NAR is the proposed reinstatement of the church offices of “apostles” and “prophets” to complement the existing offices of pastors, teachers, and evangelists. As already noted, the NAR advocates the restoration of what is said to be the original “five-fold ministry” of the early church, including the church governance by apostles who work in tandem with its prophets to govern the church. With proper apostolic/prophetic governance in order, it is believed possible to reform the “seven mountains of culture” (education, government, media, arts and entertainment, religion and family) and to usher in the kingdom of God throughout the world.
In reviewing proper governance and other issues facing the NAR, the amorphous nature of its networks should be kept in mind. The moniker and description of the NAR has been crafted largely by C. Peter Wagner and may reflect more about Wagner’s identification with the movement than what is actually transpiring globally. Wagner may be spot on when he says that global Christianity is experiencing a major reformation, but the real reformation may be found in the growth of a culturally diverse Pentecostalism that claims over 600,000,000 followers around the globe and still counting. The restoration of the offices of prophet and apostle may be a major player in this growth as Wagner suggests; alternatively, the revived offices may reflect but one of many controversial markers of a revitalized North American Pentecostalism. Is it possible that the new reformation is better described as a shift in religious worldviews from predominantly Enlightenment-driven doctrine to non-Enlightenment religious experiences of miraculous signs and wonders? Could it be that a dualistic worldview embracing basic Christian doctrine and religious experience is at the heart of a new reformation. It is quite feasible that the reformation Wagner has called the NAR exists with or without the restoration of apostles and prophets.
Critics have accepted as fact Wagner’s theology on the functioning of contemporary apostles and prophets in the NAR, with little evidence that this theology is significant in the lives of followers. Most probably few Pentecostals know about the NAR, the controversy it has generated or the identity of C. Peter Wager. Wagner has repudiated any role in founding the NAR, but he has played a major role in defining it. The empirical question remains whether the definition matches reality.
Wagner’s theology on proper church governance has been the subject of biblical analysis and found wanting by many Evangelicals. For example, Geivett and Pivec (2014) present an extensive review of NAR teaching about modern apostles, and then proceed to critique it. According to their understanding of apostles in the early church, three types of apostles can be found ( the original twelve apostles of Jesus, Paul as a post-Jesus apostle, and other apostles mentioned in the New Testament who attend to various ministries), and they claim the NAR’s restoration of prophets and apostles is non-biblical. Contrary to Wagner, Geivett and Pivec conclude that the role of contemporary apostles as cornerstones of authority in the contemporary church is biblically unfounded:
Scripture indicates that apostles of Christ—including the Twelve, Paul, and the other apostles to whom Christ appeared and specially commissioned following his resurrection—do not continue today. Other apostles – the apostles of the churches—have an ongoing role, but they do not govern. Their functions are similar to those of today’s missionaries and church planters. Since the scriptural evidence indicates that the new Testament governmental office of apostle no longer exists, NAR leaders who claim to hold this office must first demonstrate that the office is ongoing. This they have failed to do (Geivett and Pivec 2014:84).
Yet there is little evidence that those who fill NAR churches are drawn by theological debates or even that apostolic-prophetic restoration is a widely accepted teaching among Pentecostal believers.
Prophets of the 1980s also experienced criticism and counsel prior to the arrival of apostles on the scene in the mid-1990s. For example, John Wimber, founder of the Association of Vineyard Churches, came into contact with a network of prophets known as the Kansas City Prophets in the late 1980s. His experience with the prophetic can be described as “mixed;” some of the prophetic “foretelling” seemed to come to pass while other prophecies given to him did not. When one of the prophets (Mike Bickle) requested to bring his church into the AVC, Wimber released a statement of errors before admission. These “errors” included Wimber’s concern about “a lack of accountability for prophecy, allowing prophetic men to teach who were not gifted to do so; the attempt by some prophetic men to establish doctrine on the basis of prophecy; dogmatic assertions in the delivery of prophetic words” (Jackson 1999:219). Critics, even those who are open to the gift of prophecy as long practiced by Pentecostals of all three waves, have made similar calls for prophetic oversight and discernment that appear weak or lacking in the NAR.
Similar concerns and calls for discernment are found in criticisms of third-wave revival practices, including those of the Toronto Blessing. Some criticisms are excessive and largely unfounded, including many presented in Hank Hanegraaf’s (1997) The Counterfeit Revival and addressed in theologian James A. Beverley’s (1997) critique of Hanegraaf’s book. Other critics have depicted physical manifestations that were controversial trademarks of the Toronto Blessing as “false spirits invading the church” similar to Hindu/New Age (Kudalini) manifestations. Andrew Storm (2007:6), who describes himself as “a Spirit-filled, tongues-speaking believer,” issued a “Kundalini warning” for what he sees as revival excesses and evaluating what he regards as “true and false” revival (Storm 2008).
Perhaps more than any other single event, the Lakeland Outpouring at Ignited Church in Lakeland, Florida in 2008 unleashed a mounting concern for church leaders and congregants alike about the role of apostles and prophets in the contemporary church. Todd Bentley, a 32 year-old Canadian evangelist with dozens of tattoos and multiple facial piercings was a controversial-looking figure to lead a revival. His demeanor and dramatic stage tactics went beyond expectations for revival. His flamboyant preaching was off-putting to many (shouting phrases like “bam, kaboom boom” as he stretched out his hand to heal), as well as what appeared to be physical assaults on some coming for prayer during healing rituals. Yet tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Lakeland during the four months of late spring and early summer to attend the nightly revival meetings while hundreds of thousands more watched nightly live broadcasts of the revival on GOD TV.
Three months into the revival there was a special ceremony led by apostle C. Peter Wagner and supported by Revival Alliance apostles Che Ahn, Bill Johnson, and John Arnott, formally commissioning Bentley as an evangelist. Geivett and Pivec (2014:210) described Bentley’s commissioning as follows:
During the ceremony, Wagner referred to Ahn, Johnson, and Arnott as “apostolic pillars of today’s church.” He also compared their commissioning of Bentley to similar events in the book of Acts, when three apostles – James, Cephas, and John – extended the right hand of fellowship to Paul and Barnabus. Wagner stated that the “commissioning represents a powerful transaction taking place in the invisible world,” then said: “I take the apostolic authority that God has given me, and I decree to Todd Bentley: your power will increase. Your authority will increase. Your favor will increase. Your influence will increase. Your revelation will increase. I also decree that a new supernatural strength will flow through this ministry [the Lakeland Revival].
In August 2008, Bentley dropped a bombshell that brought the revival to a quick close some four months after it had begun. Bentley confessed to being in the process of leaving his wife and children to marry a female revival staff member. With his “moral failure” gone public, the Lakeland revival came to an abrupt halt. Although Bill Johnson offered to mentor Bentley through a period of restoration, Bentley turned to Rick Joyner, lead prophet of MorningStar Ministries in Fort Mill, South Carolina for guidance. Bentley’s Fresh Fire Ministries has been reestablished in Fort Mill as base for training and launching an international ministry. Bentley recently wrote (Fresh Fire website 2016):
These last 3 months of Gods favor and grace for Jessa and I, and FFM has received from the Lord has been amazing. It is transferable as we have been declaring a new season of visitation, favor and breakthrough for others. We pray it would be a double doors open season for you too.
While the controversies raised by NAR critics are generally limited to church-based belief and ritual practices, one incident has brought the NAR to the attention of the secular news media. In 2009, Rick Perry, a former-Texas governor, was visited by two self-proclaimed apostles, and the story was picked up by a reporter who investigated and published an article in 2011. Its byline read: “A little-known movement of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets wants to infiltrate government, and Rick Perry might be their man.” The prophets were two Texas pastors of small congregations who prayed with Perry and prophesized God’s plan for Texas: “A chain of powerful prophecies had proclaimed that Texas was ‘The Prophet State,” anointed by God to lead the United States into revival and Godly government. And the governor would have a special role” (Wilder 2011). Reportedly at his request, the pastors prayed with Perry (“as their heads were bowed before a painting of the Battle of the Alamo”). They ended the prayer with a prophetic declaration that Perry had a leadership role beyond Texas and that “Texas had a role beyond what people understand.”
Prophecies may fail and the sick may die, but the faith of Pentecostals across the globe continues to reflect an alternate “supernatural” worldview with attendant ritual practices that proclaim that God to be alive and active in the daily lives of human beings. While sectors of denominational American Pentecostalism (“first wave”) may be at a crossroads in toning down pentecostal spiritual experiences in their adaptation to the modern world (Poloma 1989), the third-wave continues rolling in. International, national and local revivals seem to keep coming to regenerate the experiential faith promoted by NAR churches and networks. A new global reformation of Christianity may well be in process, but this reformation appears to be much more complex than the NAR teaching about apostles and church government.
Image #1: Photograph of C. Peter Wagner, retired Fuller Theological Seminary professor and the chancellor emeritus of Wagner Leadership Institute.
Image #2: Photograph of John Wimber, who led the Association of Vineyard Churches, which grew out of Ken Gulliksen’s Vineyard church.
Image #3: Photograph of a service at the Toronto Airport Vineyard.
Image #4: Image of the “seven mountains of culture” element of NAR theology.
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Margaret M. Poloma
5 August 2016