The media has recently been writing about a movement in our nation called the New Apostolic Reformation or NAR for short. It was the leaders of this movement that were supposed to have organized Gov. Perry’s recent prayer rally. According to a recent NPR program it is a religio-political organization with Tea Party politics and an alarming view of the End of Times which is contrary to mainstream Christianity in this view believers are raptured before a great trouble coming to earth. It has a clear agenda to “re-organize” Protestantism along the lines of its ideology under the leadership of its own apostles. It has a strange view of spiritual warfare believing that it can “control” countries and cities by doing battle with demons. But more than spiritual warfare it is intolerant of toleration and has a militant call for martyrs in the “war against homosexuality and Islam”. This is quite a movement indeed, especially as it is linked with the likes of Sarah Palin and Gov. Rick Perry. I was amazed as I had never heard of this movement, it sounded an exceedingly scary conspiracy was afoot to “take dominion” of government institutions. But who does it assert are the “leaders” of this movement? Its lead architect is supposedly Peter Wagner and its apostles are supposed to be Mike Bickle and Lou Engle. With members including people like Cindy Jacobs, Bill Johnson, Word of Faith teachers and the Global Day of Prayer. This is remarkable. I am in the leadership team at the International House of Prayer, how come I have never heard of this organization? And how come much of the ideology that is reported to be from this movement is diametrically opposed to what is taught at IHOP. How can I reconcile this? I guess I’m supposed to be an insider so let’s examine. (although please note I am expressing my own opinion and not giving an official statement from IHOP or the NAR)
What is a movement or organization? Well we think of a “movement” when we refer to things like the “Civil Rights Movement”, the way Websters defines it is “a series of organized activities working toward an objective or an organized effort to promote or attain an end”. In any typical organization or movement there is an organizing philosophy/theology that everyone can get behind, a movement typically has some kind of organized leadership that are moving these goals forward, there is also some kind of common identity that all of the adherents can agree upon and therefore label themselves to some extent with the name of the movement. Do these things define the NAR?
I thought I would start by looking up Peter Wagner as he is supposed to be the lead architect of this movement, I have never read any of Peter Wagner’s works, so I am not really familiar with his belief system (Which is kind of strange if he is a main architect and I am supposed to be in a movement which he has architected). I see on Amazon he has written a book in 1998 called “The New Apostolic Churches” – aha I guess in these books he will define which churches are included in this movement? You would think? A year later he wrote a book about “How the New Apostolic Reformation was shaking the Church”. I guess I hit the jackpot finding these books, I have not read these books yet, but a cursory look at them on Amazon I see that Peter expands the circle of those involved in this movement. I see that Bill Hybels of Willowcreek is involved, I see that Joel Osteen of Lakewood is involved, I see that Rick Warren of Saddleback is involved, I see that the Vineyard movement is involved. Wow – this is a vast conspiracy indeed, some of the leaders of the largest churches in the nation are involved in it.
Now I have a fuller grasp of what the Program on NPR was talking about I can examine it a little more. Is there a unifying philosophy or theology behind this disparate group of church leaders? From a Seeker Sensitive, Cessationist church in Chicago to “Crazy” Charismatics, to the 300 million who gather on the Global Day of Prayer from churches of all shades, I would say categorically no. I would challenge the reporters to hear all these groups and decide if they have the same philosophy and beliefs and find they do not. There is however one unifying factor that I think most would agree on, they are all part of the Body of Christ, the Church, and I would say that all would agree that we need to become Disciples of Jesus. We would unite and pray around this point but on others would not probably agree.
Let’s take an example of this. In the NPR article Mike Bickle is supposed to preach a controversial view of the end times called the “Pre-Tribulation Rapture”. Let me say this is not a controversial view in North America. Ask the 60 million who bought the “Left Behind” series of books. Ask the many ministers who are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary or the majority of Pentecostals in North America, who hold a dispensational view. There are many who hold this view including many who would be lumped under the NAR banner like John Hagee. This is a mainstream view, however the more interesting point is that Mike actually calls this view a “major deception”, it is a view that has only been embraced by the church since the middle of the 19th Century. The eschatological view preached at IHOP is actually Classical or Historical Premillennialism. So we find in the area of eschatology there is pretty significant disagreement between the parties. I think all parties would agree that they think Jesus will return to earth like he promises in the Bible, but here again I cannot be sure what other people believe.
What about the view on Apostles? Again I am not sure what Peter Wagner says, I know in some churches, especially the Black Church they call their leaders “Apostles” I know in IHOP we have no one called an apostle. I don’t even call Mike Bickle Pastor – a simple “Mike” suffices. What about Dominionism? Well I have written about this in a previous blog.
What about politics? I was involved in the Prayer Rally. I am also about to become an American Citizen where I can vote. I have strong views on the corruption of Corporate America especially as it relates to the pharmaceutical lobby, the petroleum lobby, the technology lobby and the lack of social mobility in the US is not a good thing, my experience of US healthcare has also not been incredibly favorable. I am pro-life and believe that abortion is killing a person. I believe in biblical standards of sexuality and marriage. So would I be defined as a “Tea-Party” advocate. If so it is a very uncomfortable fit. I know the political views of IHOPPERS besides being pro-life are wide and varied. If they are wide here, what are they amongst the whole NAR?
What about spiritual warfare? It is just that “Spiritual” we do spiritual warfare primarily through prayer and walking as disciples of Jesus, not in some kind of militant social action.
So in conclusion, I still do not know what Peter Wagner believes, I have never met him, heard him speak, or read his books, and I am convinced this would be true for most of those who have been lumped in the group the NAR. I consider Peter a brother in Christ, and if I am confronted with the fact that he is speaking heretically I am charged to go to him and present his sin (Matt 18). However I have a feeling Peter is probably as bemused by this news coverage as the rest of us. For I still do not know what the NAR is, I have a feeling that the NAR is a convenient cover for the news media and those that have a beef with the church to express their own intolerant views of how views found in the Bible and expressed by most churches in the US are somehow “cultic” and “dangerous”. If there is a movement that the media is hitting it should be described for what it is “Christianity” or at least mainstream Evangelical/Catholic Christianity.