“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:24
I love supporting local Christian charities and missions. One I like transcribes the Bible into third world, lesser-known languages so people in remote areas can receive the Good News. The man who leads it (let’s call him Bob) loves the Lord and he does a great job sending out newsletters letting his supporters know what the organization is doing around the world.
I love getting his newsletters, but a recent one caught me by surprise and made me aware of a very real threat to Christianity happening today. And, it’s occurring right under our noses.
In the Newsletter
Maybe this has happened to you: someone says something, or you come across something that doesn’t quite sound right. It’s odd enough that you do a double-take and ask, “Uh, what?” hoping for some clarity, but there isn’t any. That’s what happened when I read the latest newsletter.
Evidently, Bob watched a video given by a man named Dutch Sheets. In the video, Sheets was promoting a practice of “releasing God to accomplish His will.” That “once we pray and release Him to have His way and work His will on earth, He is then able to move with power and accomplish His will.” That “we have been given the responsibility and authority for what happens on earth.” In other words, if we don’t release God through prayer to have His way in a situation, nothing will happen because He is waiting for us to release Him.
Make sense? Not to me either.
What in the world was Bob trying to say? Why on earth (or anywhere else) would God need me to release Him to do anything? I mean, He’s God! He doesn’t need me to do a thing for Him. Isn’t He all-powerful?
Now, I’m not the kind of person to just walk away from something so strange. I needed answers, so I started researching it.
A Growing Counter-Christian Cult
I did a quick Google search on Dutch Sheets and the results I got were incredible. Each website associated him with what one researcher called the fastest growing counter-Christian cult in the world today.2 It’s called the New Apostolic Reformation movement, or NAR, and it’s sort of akin to Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Ever heard of it? Me neither. Here’s what I found out.
First of all, the NAR is not an official Christian organization. It’s a group of people with various religious affiliations who agree with a creed created by a man named C. Peter Wagner (1930–2016) back in the 1990s, though he claims it already existed. Until his retirement, Mr. Wagner was the president of Global Harvest Ministries (a NAR organization), and he was a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Missions.5
According to Cameron Buettel and Jeremiah Johnson at Grace to You, two women “prophesied” to Mr. Wagner that he had been anointed to be an apostle. Then in 1998, another supposed prophesy was given at some unusual ceremony that Mr. Wagner evidently thought was his official ordination to be a modern-day apostle.
In 2001, Mr. Wagner claimed that the Holy Spirit revealed to him we have now entered a second apostolic age and so the NAR was born. His apostleship was then confirmed when he used his power to end mad cow disease in Germany, which, by the way, still exists.1
What Mr. Wagner fails to recognize is that the New Testament — indeed, God Himself — outlines the criteria to be an apostle. All three conditions must be met. You must be…
- A physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7–8).
- Personally appointed by the Lord (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2; 10:41; Galatians 1:1).
- Able to authenticate your apostleship with miraculous signs (Matthew 10:1; Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4).
Now, unless Mr. Wagner has somehow traveled through time, I’m pretty sure he wasn’t present the day they nailed our Savior to the cross nor anywhere nearby after His resurrection. And, somehow his name isn’t mentioned as being among those in the upper room at Jesus’ first post-resurrection appearance.
By not meeting even the first requirement we know he is what the Bible calls a false teacher. His false claim of curing mad cow disease also confirms it. He’s not an apostle.
The NAR Today
Today, the NAR is a loose-knit group of assorted men and women leaders spread out across all 50 states with about 3 million people attending churches that endorse their teachings.6 About 150 apostles are in the United States alone, all under an umbrella called the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA).1
Their goal is to re-establish the official titles and positions of prophets and apostles with divine authority over the Christian church (the same authority as the apostles in the Holy Bible) and the power to perform miracles (did I mention the mad cow disease debacle?).
They feel theirs is the greatest movement in the Christian church since Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation.
Anyone can become an apostle. All you need is to be nominated by two existing apostles and pay some fees. It’s sort of like signing up at the local YMCA with a friend to get the discount. According to Buettel and Johnson at Grace to You, here is the ICA’s pricing schedule:
“The ICA charges an annual $450 fee to be an apostle. However, Native Americans receive a $100 discount. There’s also a couple’s rate of $650, just in case your wife also happens to be an apostle. And you want to stay on top of your dues, because failure to renew your membership on time results in a “deactivated” apostleship — it’s not clear if that includes the deactivation of any spiritual gifts as well. All is not lost, however — a deactivated apostle can be reactivated for an extra $50. That’s a staggeringly low bar for apostolic authority — particularly when that authority includes speaking on behalf of Almighty God.”1
What the NAR Believes
The NAR has many unusual beliefs about being a good Christian. Here are a few examples.4
Apostleship is a Requirement. Author David Cannistraci explains in his book “Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement” (Renew Books, 1998) the NAR believes God’s people cannot return to pure Christian doctrine unless they receive the gift of apostleship. If we don’t, then Jesus will not return (you read that right).
Also, participation is a must if you don’t want to miss out on performing amazing miracles or their end-times plans including instigating the Tribulation as described in the book of Revelation. Failure to participate will mean you have a powerful demon on you known as the “spirit of religion.”6
Global Revival. Their revivals are often enormous contemporary rock concerts with live streaming and a huge emphasis on “end times harvest.” Being raised Pentecostal, I love a good Christian revival, but the Bible verses they choose typically create fear and anxiety about something that’s coming soon, so you had better get out there and release God’s power.
Demon Warfare. The NAR apostles sometimes like to engage in demonic exorcism in public places. According to a sermon Pastor John MacArthur gave to his congregation in 2011, NAR apostles have traveled all over Texas conducting elaborate rituals using branding irons, stakes, and plumb lines in a quest to claim every county for God. They call it “spiritual mapping.”
They also cast out demons, which Mr. Wagner’s wife, Doris, actively engages in, but first there’s paperwork to fill out. NPR Radio interviewed Mr. Wagner in 2011 and he had this to say about his wife:
“Sometimes the demon has identified itself to the person. Sometimes you can tell by manifestations of superhuman, unhuman behavior. Sometimes you can tell by skilled deliverance ministers. My wife has a five-page questionnaire that she has people fill out before she ministers to them.”5
If you have ever been to Hollywood, California, you no doubt recognize this same questionnaire tactic used by the Scientologists, another counter-Christian cult.
Bringing Down Idols. Pastor MacArthur adds the apostles have gone to all the Masonic Lodges in Texas to cast out the pagan idol Baal. He quoted one of their leaders as saying, “We are called to world dominion,” prompting the good pastor to sum up the NAR this way: “I mean, if you didn’t know better, you’d think somebody opened the back door of the nut house.”3
Mandatory Participation. Though they believe that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, it’s not enough that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was resurrected on the third day giving us the promise of eternal life. All that is simply not adequate to reclaim the earth for the kingdom of heaven.
In other words, people must participate in saving the world because God needs our help. Remember what Bob’s newsletter said…we need to release God’s power. If we don’t, God can’t do a thing.
Having fun? Wait, it gets better.
Because they believe they can speak for God, the NAR leaders endeavor to govern every church and its staff promoting the idea that we must release God’s power to advance His kingdom and take command of every physical and spiritual aspect of our daily lives.
The Berean Examiner puts it this way: “Rather than preach the Gospel of the cross, Apostolic leaders are working to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth. They do this by taking dominion of earthly kingdoms or “mountains” of government, media, entertainment, education, business, family, and religion. Leaders often talk of city building and organize prayer walks to pray against demonic strongholds. They often speak of being mission-focused rather than being Christ-centered.”4
Notice one of their “kingdoms” to conquer is politics, which leads us back to Texas. Apparently, Texas is where the Holy Spirit) wants to create a revival in godly government. So, in 2011 the NAR invited then-Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry to a prayer breakfast in Houston to lay hands on him and pray. He attended, of course, to increase his voting base.3
As for the rest of attendees, they were instructed to follow the NAR’s perceived instructions from the Holy Spirit to enter politics or else there will be earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and a declining economy (nevermind these things were already happening). They also explained that if everyone complied then good things would happen, like when they caused it to rain in Texas after a recent long drought.
Visions from the Holy Spirit
Here’s a final example of the way the NAR thinks.
In 2010, one of their apostles named Alice Patterson wrote a book about politics called Bridging the Racial and Political Divide. In the book, she recounts a 2009 meeting where she claims she and the attendees saw Jezebel.
In case you’re not familiar with this Bible character, Jezebel was the wicked wife of King Ahab found in 1 Kings. She became symbolic of the evil involved with false religion. She, along with Ahab, worshipped Baal and “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him (1 Kings 16:33).”
Well, the meeting attendees say Jezebel showed up and lifted her skirt to expose “little Baal, Ashtoreth (note: a first-century mother goddess worshipped by the Philistines), and a few other demons who were small, cowering, trembling little spirits only ankle-high on Jezebel’s skinny legs.”3
Yes, she put this in a book about politics, and she attributed it to the work of the Holy Spirit as a divine revelation. To say any of this is the work of God is practically blasphemous.
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15
Unfortunately, It Gets Worse
Perhaps the biggest problem with this Christian cult is that their doctrines are sliding into mainstream churches more and more and not many people realize it. Not even our pastors and priests.
Amy Spreeman of the Berean Examiner and Naomi’s Table spoke at the 2017 Answers for Women conference presented by the Christian apologetic organization Answers in Genesis. Ms. Spreeman explained to the audience that “many of these practices are seeping into churches of every denomination through small groups, church planting, conferences we attend, or even the books we bring home from Christian bookstores.”2
She goes on to say the worst part: many of their teachings are Biblically true!
If you read Mr. Wagner’s interview on NPR Radio in 2011, you will probably think there’s nothing wrong with the NAR, that he makes good sense, and I’m just gossiping. But, here’s the truth as I understand it from well-respected, highly knowledgeable Christian pastors.
The NAR typically takes holy Scripture out of context, twisting it just enough that even a mature Christian might not catch it, which is evident in the NPR interview. Their view of the Scriptures is just true enough, just Biblically-based enough that it sounds like the truth.
Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses both do the same thing, and it’s why we need to compare every teaching we hear, read, and watch to God’s breathed-out Word.
How to Counter the Counter-Christian NAR
How do we answer this latest counter-Christian movement? It’s simple. We must consistently read and thoroughly know the truth of God’s Word. We cannot discern false teachers without knowing what the Bible says.
Jesus warned us about such teachers in Matthew 24:24,
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.”
Jesus also said,
“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15
People associated with counter-Christian cults deceive honest seekers of the Word, either intentionally or not, by impersonating true shepherds. They slyly — perhaps unwittingly ̶ promote the wide gate, the wide way, and wickedness. Unfortunately, many people buy what they’re selling.
The Bible tells us to always give a defense for what we believe in 1 Peter 3:15,
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”
You can only give a defense if you know your weapon, the Bible, and have the armor of God fully on your body (Ephesians 6:14).
The NAR won’t knock on your door like Jehovah’s Witnesses do, but they might quietly infiltrate your church and persuade your pastors and leaders to their way of thinking.
If you suspect that any of the NAR’s teachings have entered your church, humbly alert your pastor or priest and share your concerns in love, always giving a defense for what you know the Bible says. Then, continue to pray for your pastors, priests, teachers, and congregation that God will guard their minds and hearts with godly truth and wisdom.
The NAR is only the latest counter-Christian movement out there, but it could be a powerful one. My dear friend, stay alert and vigilant, pray and seek Biblical truth, so you will not be deceived and led astray like Bob.
If you’re curious to know where I found my information, here is a list of the resources I used in this article. I caution you to be ready for some interesting reading.
Grace to You: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B131118
Pirate Christian’s Berean Examiner: http://www.piratechristian.com/berean-examiner/the-six-hallmarks-of-a-nar-church