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Enjoying God Blog

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One of the more recent developments within certain sectors of charismatic renewal is known as the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR for short. Many have been unjustifiably lumped in with this movement. I italicized the word movement in view of the controversy over whether NAR is actually a thing, an organized entity of some sort. I won’t dive into the controversy on this point, but none can deny that there is a theology that is often referred to as NAR.

The first thing to remember is that there is a world of difference between affirming that the gift/office of apostle is still valid in our day, on the one hand, and endorsing NAR, on the other. The former I believe. See the two chapters on apostles in my book, Understanding Spiritual Gifts: A Comprehensive Guide (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2020). The latter I reject. Many refuse to keep these two things separate and thereby conclude that anyone who uses the language of apostle or apostolic must be part of NAR. I urge you not to fall prey to this misconception. So, what then is NAR?

The terminology itself was likely first coined by C. Peter Wagner in the early days of the 21st century. Wagner believed that there had emerged a new form or expression of church governance. No longer are churches to be governed by or identified with a denomination, but rather by their alignment under the authority of an apostle, or perhaps several apostles (and in many cases, prophets too).

The local church, said Wagner, is shifting from being led or governed by Elders and Pastors to being under the authority and oversight of an apostle. I won’t take the time here to respond, other than to say that Wagner’s proposal is profoundly unbiblical. Apostles still exist, but nowhere in the NT do we find any form of local church governance other than that of a plurality of Elders. Nor is there the slightest hint in Scripture that God ever intended the prescribed model of local church governance to at some time subsequent to the closing of the biblical canon be changed or transformed into one in which apostles usurp the role of the Elder.

There are several other dimensions to NAR that should be noted: They include:

 Apostles are to exercise ultimate authority over the governance of the local church instead of duly recognized male Elders.

 Prophets are to likewise be given final authority in matters of church governance.

 Apostles and prophets are believed to have extraordinary spiritual power.

 Apostles and prophets are believed to be recipients of revelation that is unattainable by the ordinary Christian.

 Churches cannot be expected to thrive unless they have the five-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11 as the governmental structure of their assemblies.

 Many, if not most, in NAR believe in the Word of Faith, according to which our words have creative power to produce what one proclaims.

 Many, if not most, in NAR also embrace the Health and Wealth or Prosperity gospel.

 Those in NAR also believe, in most cases, that it is always God’s will to heal the sick, and if one is not healed it is not God’s fault but due to the lack of faith or the presence of sin in the life of the afflicted.

 Those in NAR embrace some form of dominion theology.

 Those in NAR often affirm what they refer to as the transfer of wealth from unbelieving people to the church.

 Those in NAR regularly practice “declarative” prayer.

 Those in NAR typically believe that miracles are to be a normative phenomenon in the experience of Christians and local churches.

Needless to say, not every person who identifies with NAR would endorse or believe all of the preceding theological beliefs. If you wish to dive more deeply into the subject, here is a short list of books and articles one should consult.

John Weaver, The New Apostolic Reformation: History of a Modern Charismatic Movement (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2016).

C. Peter Wagner, Churchquake! How the New Apostolic Reformation is Shaking Up the Church as We Know it (Ventura: Regal Books, 1996)

C. Peter Wagner, Apostles and Prophets: The Foundation of the Church (Ventura: Regal Books, 2000).

David Cartledge, The Apostolic Revolution: The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Assemblies of God in Australia (Chester Hill, NSW, Australia: Paraclete Institute, 2000).

Donald E. Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millennium (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders are Changing the Religious Landscape (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).

For a rigorous critique of the movement, see the books by R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book Company, 2014), and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book Company, 2014).

4 Comments

NAR teaching relies heavily on three verses in Ephesians (2:20; 3:6; and 4:11f). In what sense are the apostles and prophets the foundation of the household of God, the church (2:20)? The apostles and prophets are revealing the open secret that Gentiles are included in the church (3:6). In what sense is the apostolic role a missions-mindedness, not local governance? Many commentators see 2:20 and 3:6 referring to the Twelve Apostles and the OT prophets of the messianic promise. But, Paul seems to indicate in 4:11 that the apostles and prophets have a present role in training up the saints for the work of the ministry. What kind of training do they provide? I heard John Wimber speak several times, he is the one person that I felt had an apostolic gift, though he would never accept that title. John Wesley, J. Hudson Taylor, or Count von Zinzendorf had a big-picture vision for the church. My working definition of an apostle is a gift from the risen and ascended Christ that enables a minister to see God’s purpose and desire for the nations. The apostle is divinely anointed to see doors open for the gospel to large people groups. An apostle considers the big picture and functions as an overarching umbrella of guidance and protection to the Body of Christ. Apostles bring clarity, guidance, and leadership to the ministries of prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors while experiencing those gifts themselves. Often Apostles have an unusual endowment of power for dramatic signs and wonders (i.e., power encounters) accompany this office. What are your thoughts on my definition?
The problem with Pivec and Geivett is that they are like antivirus programs whose detection rules are too strict. Their views on NT prophecy would capture you and Dr. Keener. Their views on kenosis would almost certainly capture Dr. Roger Olson, Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling, and the late Drs. Walter Martin, Gordon Fee, and Gerald Hawthorne.
Counterfeit Kingdom is an excellent book about the absurdities of NAR and history and Bethel movement.
Hi Sam, I appreciate how concise and articulate this article was. Is not the practice of "Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare" also a practice that is common in NAR cirlces? Also, what about the 7 mountain mandate? Though I guess that would fall under dominion theology. What about prayer walking (in relation to spiritual warefare) and prayer rooms?
It also seems that the NAR is a progression from the Word of Faith/Prosperity Gospel movement when it is boiled down.
Thanks for the article!

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