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What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

HomeFalse TeachingsWhat is the New Apostolic Reformation?

I’m often asked to assess what others teach. I do not do this lightly, but it is necessary. Before reading this page, or any of the pages about specific people, I recommend that you read What is a False Teacher?, which explains what the Bible says about false teachers, and why I would bother to research who they are and what they say. You may also want to check out a list of Bible Teachers I Can Recommend.

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a movement made up of a hundreds of churches and organizations around the world that call themselves Christian, but share a number of unbiblical ideas. Most NAR teachers are also Word of Faith teachers, another decidedly unbiblical set of ideas.

Movements are difficult to analyze and assess. Because a movement has no central authority, there are no official statements, and there is no official oversight. Individuals involved in the movement may have widely disparate beliefs, so valid criticisms for some are invalid for others. Because of the variations in belief and practice in any movement, each church’s or individual’s involvement with others in the NAR must be assessed independently of every other. The only reasonable goal here is to expose the errors and excesses, providing a correction for some and a warning for others.

I see three paths for fairly assessing a movement like NAR:

  1. To look into the principles involved in the genesis of the movement,
  2. To critique what influential leaders in the movement have taught and written, and
  3. To examine the trends embodied in the movement.

New Apostolic Reformation Founding Principles

As with any movement, the NAR has had a variety of influences over the years. While not everyone in the NAR is Charismatic/Pentecostal, the movement is almost entirely in Charismatic/Pentecostal circles. Based on the teachings of some of its prominent leaders, the NAR has strong connections to previous, troublesome, Charismatic/Pentecostal movements. Here are a few of the commonly-held ideas taught by prominent leaders in the NAR:

Related people, movements, and theological concepts in the New Apostolic Reformation:

  • Bethel Church (Redding, CA)
  • Bill Johnson
  • Bob Jones
  • Brian Simmons
  • Brownsville Revival
  • C. Peter Wagner
  • Cesar Castellanos
  • Che Ahn
  • Cindy Jacobs
  • David Yonggi Cho
  • Dominion Theology
  • E.A. Adeboye
  • Five-fold Ministry
  • Franklin Hall
  • George Warnock
  • Harvest Rock Church (Pasadena, CA)
  • Hillsong (Australia and worldwide)
  • Ian Carroll
  • IHOP
  • James Goll
  • Joel’s Army
  • John Wimber
  • Kim Clement
  • Kingdom Now
  • Latter Rain Movement
  • Lou Engle
  • Manifest Sons of God
  • Mike Bickel
  • MorningStar Fellowship Church (Charlotte, NC)
  • New Life Church (Colorado Springs, CO)
  • Prayerwalking
  • Rick Joyner
  • Seven Mountain Mandate
  • Spiritual Mapping
  • Steve Shultz
  • Steven Furtick
  • Sunday Adelaja
  • TBN
  • The Elijah List
  • The Passion Bible
  • Todd Bentley
  • Toronto Blessing / Brownsville Revival
  • Warfare Prayer
  • Warfare Worship
  • William Branham

You can read a lot about the New Apostolic Reformation on the Spirit of Error website. Holly Pivec co-authored a book on the NAR, has written for Biola Magazine and the Christian Research Journal, and has a Master’s degree in apologetics from Biola University.

My Conclusion

While I always try to be impartial, my previous research into groups and individuals colors my conclusions. I’m not anti-Pentecostal, but the excesses and abuses in the movement have given me pause. I see the NAR as only the latest in a long, long line of theologically error-prone leaders, false teachers, charlatans, and demonically-inspired grifters.

Many in the movement are quick to point out that there is an agreed-upon statement of faith in place, and that it is historically and biblically orthodox. While true, that’s often unrelated to what’s actually being taught. In fact, much of the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement is characterized by ideas that are theologically questionable at best and, at worst, are simply lies. Most of the recent growth of Christianity around the world appears to be happening in Charismatic/Pentecostal churches, which I find disturbing…not because I’m a hater, but because most of the theologically awful stuff in my lifetime has been birthed and spread there.

See the complete but incomplete False Teachers List

Disclaimer

Don’t bother commenting or emailing me about how I’m just wrong. It’s a waste of your time and mine. If you have something to say, include Scripture. I am far from perfect, and I can be wrong… so I don’t do any of this lightly, and I’m open to correction.

Don’t bother telling me how this person or that person helped you. It’s a waste of your time and mine. Nobody teaches lies and falsehoods all the time. In researching these topics, I’ve heard a LOT that I appreciated, and have been inspired by even those who are otherwise far from the truth. The number of times someone is right is irrelevant to the question of whether they also teach false things. We should appreciate anyone who teaches us the truth, but that doesn’t mean we should uncritically follow them when we see significant problems in their lives, in their ministries, and in their teaching. Neither your opinion nor mine matter here. What matters is what the Bible teaches, and whether those who preach and teach in Jesus’ name are teaching falsely.

If you can provide evidence that one of these people has recanted their false teaching, please let me know. I would love to amend their article to show that they have changed what they teach.

Finally: we who follow Jesus should not consider false teachers our enemies. If they’re not saved, we should pray for their salvation. If they are saved, we should pray that God will lead them to teach only the truth.

See also: a list of Bible Teachers I Can Recommend


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Comments

14 responses to “What is the New Apostolic Reformation?”

  1. Tony Graham says:

    I believe that pentecostalism is the main problem with this and many other groups. I spent 14 years in pentecostal churches but near the end of that time I saw some very strange stuff happening. I decided to study the scriptures relating to tongues ( languages) more carefully and although it took a couple of years , I’m a slow reader , I started to get a clearer picture of what happened in Acts 2. Of course this is my picture and is quite different from all the other Christian interpretations. I had been reading your discussions about the sabbath and am impressed with the way you handled all the questions and opposition. Can I start by asking what you believe happened on that day . Can be a very brief summary to start with. Thanks for your time.

    • Tony says:

      Tony:

      Thanks for writing! While there are many good things about the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement, solid biblical theology is not usually among them. I spent time in a couple of Pentecostal churches, and one of the pastors from the first church is my son’s godfather… so I’m not a stranger. Like you, I studied the Scriptures relating to tongues. Our pastor gave us a 4-page handout explaining the doctrine, and we looked up every verse and thought carefully about it all. When we took our results back to the pastor and explained that not one of the Bible verses supported the typical Pentecostal conclusion – that the initial physical evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues – he agreed.

      That’s shocking. Not ONE of the Bible verses actually said what they believe… yet they believe it, they preach it, and they practically insist that people who don’t speak in tongues aren’t actually saved. That part directly contradicts Scripture, yet I heard it again and again.

      What happened on the day of Pentecost? Like Acts 2 says, the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages. The visitors to Jerusalem heard them speaking in a number of different languages and were amazed. This attracted a lot of attention, and Peter used the moment to preach the gospel to people from around the world. Doesn’t seem complicated. =)

      • Tony Graham says:

        Thanks for your reply. Your brief summary is what I read in scripture also. When I started my study I soon came to the conclusion that the languages they spoke were their native languages. There was nothing solid in the scriptures that would have me believe they spoke in languages they did not previously know. The comment made by onlookers ‘ behold, are not all these that speak Galileans? ‘ was an assumption and an incorrect one. A reasonable assumption though looking from the outside. The happenings over the previous 3 years would have been common knowledge to most inquiring minds in the city. This Galilean rebel Jesus and his followers most likely meeting regularly in the temple would have been a good regular news item or gossip! Also his crucifixion. Luke 13:1 , my assumption though, is that Pilot having become frustrated with a bunch of Galilean zealots sent his soldiers into the temple and slaughtered them while they made sacrifices. Probably a memorable event still in the minds of many citizens. I do believe they were in the temple, not an upper room, and the scripture I read supports this. I don’t believe that out of 120 odd followers that they were all Galileans. Over Jesus 3 year ministry there would probably have been a good percentage of Jewish believers having come into the city for feast days that decided to stay and follow Jesus. Then after Jesus death and resurrection a lot would have returned to their native lands. A good plan executed by the Holy Spirit to spread the good news around the world. I also interpret them speaking as the Spirit gave them utterance to mean they spoke one at a time, not all at once. Having just been filled with the Holy Spirit their understanding of scripture previously learned would have taken on a whole new dimension. I’m sure you have seen countless times how a new convert can get very excited about their revelation of the Truth and their enthusiasm to share it.
        Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians had always bothered me as some of it didn’t make sense to me around the discussion on languages, but it slowly became clearer as to what he was actually saying when the above interpretation of events had settled in my mind. I will stop here otherwise it will get very long but am keen to hear your comments and discuss further. I can expand on my reasons for this interpretation of events from scripture also. I am also willing to admit to being wrong if indeed it can be shown from scripture that I am. Look forward to your reply. Thanks.

        • Tony says:

          Tony:

          I’m sorry for the delay… it’s been a busy week!

          I would suggest that there may be a flaw in your assumption about how many there were. In chapter 1, we see the eleven choosing Matthias to replace Judas, and they became 12 again. [EDIT: this is incorrect. The 120 nominated two men.] In chapter 2, we see that “they were all together in once place.” There’s no transition to the 120, and it seems unlikely that that many people would fit into an oikos. That’s a dwelling, not the temple. Then, when the crowd heard them, they asked whether they weren’t all Galileans. I agree that we can’t necessarily take this as true, just because they asked it… but Galilee is a region. If the crowd from all over the known world heard 120 people speaking in known languages, it would make more sense that they would talk about them being Jews, rather than talking about them being Galileans. In v14 Peter stood up with the eleven and addressed the crowd. No mention of the 120. Then, in v37, the crowd spoke to Peter and the other apostles. In context, it sounds like only the 12 were involved from start to finish.

          What do you say?

  2. Lee says:

    Hi! I can I jump in on this? First, you may be interested to know that New York Theological Seminary has begun a degree program for charismatic and Pentecostals to give the more solid theological base, something that has been needed. Clearly the Scriptures do not say anything like speaking in tongues is the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The theology behind that has been wrong, you are baptized in the Holy Spirit when you believe. But being gifted by the Holy Spirit may be at some later time. That’s all pretty straight forward. You can’t just dismiss that a miracle happened in Acts 2. Luke clearly treats it as a miracle and it has consistently been the doctrine of the church that it was a miracle. People want to play with that and make it mean whatever they want it to mean, but the plain reading is that the disciples spoke in languages Thant were unknown to them declaring the things of God. We know the disciples, we know where they were from and, yes, they were Galileans. I think I have a new way of understanding this that you might find interesting. I think it was part of and a sign of the undoing of the division among men that began at Babel. It doesn’t seem to have happened again. But at that moment, everyone there was able to understand the message the disciples were declaring. Paul will go on and explain more that the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile had been abolished. But I think Acts 2 speaks even more deeply to the undoing of what God had to do at Babel. That Jesus was meant for all the nations and all the peoples. So … what do you think?

    • Tony says:

      Lee:

      Of course you can jump in! Thanks for taking the time. I agree with your assessment: it’s all pretty straightforward. I like your parallel of Pentecost to Babel, where our pride created division and confusion and the Holy Spirit brings clarity and unity. Makes sense to me!

  3. David says:

    Peter, James, and John were Pentecostal. Just because someone calls themselves something doesn’t mean they are. Many people call themselves Christians, but they do not know Him. To allow false teachers to skew our view of an entire denomination is cheap. Kenneth Hagin may call himself Pentecostal, but the apostle Paul would have condemned him immediately and told him that he wasn’t.

    • Tony says:

      David:

      You make a good point. As I’ve said above, there are many good things about the Pentecostal movement. As you’ve said, Paul – and anyone else familiar with the gospel – would immediately condemn the bad theology and abuses that are unfortunately too common. I wonder what Paul might have written in a letter to a Pentecostal church.

  4. Darrin says:

    “I think it was part of and a sign of the undoing of the division among men that began at Babel. It doesn’t seem to have happened again.”

    Acts 11.

    Peter explains his decision to go among the Gentiles in Caesarea, and the fruit of that choice:

    15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts.11.15,Acts.11.16,Acts.11.17&version=NIV

    We are not told many specifics about what happened, but a couple of phrases stand out:
    — In v15, there’s the assertion that “the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us,” seems to establish that what happened in both places was the same; I think it notable that there’s NOT an “except they didn’t speak in other tongues as we did” disclaimer anywhere
    — In v17, Peter reaffirms that what happened among the new Gentile believers in Caesarea was the same as what happened in the Upper Room.

    Again , in Acts 19 we see a Pentecost redux take place among some at Ephesus who had believed on Jesus, and baptized in water, but had no knowledge of the Holy Spirit; not even of his existence.

    6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts.19.6&version=NIV

    It is from these subsequent pentecost-like events that charismatic and pentecostal churches extract their reason that these signs must have been intended to carry forward to new believers as the Church advanced. I’ve seen it happen for real, but in general I think they TRY TOO HARD to force the Hand of God. Also, I have found charismatic congregations generally less, uhh, “wacky” (?) than some of the Pentecostal scene I’ve come among aver the years, as if being “charismatic” is a sort of stepping away from some of the Pentecostal extremism; like tossing out the bathwater without losing hold of The Baby.

    [An interesting sidebar, and one sure to provoke, uh, “conversation” is how there was, at Caesarea, no span of time between the people believing unto salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit, but there was a gap for the believers at Ephesus, who had been in faith for some time before Paul laid hands on them. Anyone for a second blessing? I’ve become a both/and subscriber in that specific regard.]

  5. Tony says:

    Hi Tony. You suggested there was a flaw in my assumption about how many there were on the day of Pentecost. You said that there was no transition from the 12 to the 120. The transition is already made in chapter one. Read Acts 1:15. You said that OIKOS is a dwelling, not the temple. It can be a dwelling but can also mean the temple. Jesus used this word when he said My house shall be called a house of prayer. He was referring to the Temple. A simple word search will tell you all the places that the word OIKOS can be used for.
    A lot of New Testament scripture warns us about deception that will come into the church. So to Cut to the Chase, as the time is short , the pentecostal and charismatic tongues is a deception and anyone who speaks it and promotes it is being deceived by the devil. Definitely not recommended!

    • Tony says:

      Tony:

      Thanks for writing back. Your argument has merit, of course. We can’t, however, be more precise than the text allows. If the text doesn’t say, then we can’t say. I’m sure you would agree.

      As I pointed out, OIKOS does mean a dwelling. Jesus does use that word in Matthew 21:12 to refer to the temple. However, He’s not the speaker. He’s quoting from Isaiah 56:7, where God speaks of the temple. Quite literally, the temple WAS God’s dwelling… so calling it ‘my house’ is entirely consistent. If you can find any New Testament passage where the temple is called ‘a house’ rather than ‘the temple,’ you may be on the right track. Otherwise, the accumulation of passages that speak of the temple using HIERON instead of OIKOS suggest otherwise. Doesn’t that seem right to you?

      As for the question of who “they” are in each passage, Luke doesn’t differentiate very precisely. We have to look at the context to see who is who. Look at Acts 1. Jesus gave instructions to the apostles he had chosen. That would undoubtedly be the 12, not 120… else choosing a replacement for Judas would round out the 120. We know he filled in the 12th spot, so “chosen” is the smaller group. Jesus says that THEY would be baptized with the Holy Spirit, receive power, and be witnesses. They were addressed in v11 as “men of Galilee,” which says that this wasn’t the larger group, which presumably included men NOT from Galilee, and also some women. In v12-14, “they” still appear to be the 12.

      In v15 we see the 120. They nominated two men.

      In 2:1 we see “they” were all together. Who were they? The text doesn’t tell us directly, does it? However: Jesus’ words in Acts 1 were spoken to the 12, so it seems best to assume that what happened in the house in 2:3 was happening to the 12, and that the house was a regular house. Jesus didn’t say that they, along with 100+ other people, would be baptized with the Holy Spirit. Did Jesus, in 1:4-5, mean “all of you, my followers” or “you, my apostles”?

      I don’t really have a huge problem with your interpretation, Tony. It just doesn’t seem to fit the text. To make it fit, we have to make assumptions that go against the plain reading of the text. If you assume “the house” means “the temple,” you need some textual warrant to make the assumption. There isn’t any. If you assume that “they” who spoke in tongues numbered 120 rather than 12, you need some textual warrant. I see none. You assume that those who heard were wrong about them being Galileans… but that isn’t found in the text itself.

      Do you see why I can’t yet agree with you? It’s not that your argument isn’t plausible. It seems plausible, on the surface. The problem is that you’re not deriving your argument from the text itself.

  6. Renee says:

    I’m not a Bible scholar but believe I know what the central theme of the new testament is and that is pretty much John 3:16 but people add so much to it that I would like an expert explanation. Yes back to pentecostal beliefs. I just started going to a pentecostal church. It’s a new church and they don’t believe that you have to speak in tongues to be a Christian but there’s some other strange theology and I am so conflicted with many things of this “pastor”. Like you can lose your salvation which is called backsliding. So you never have the confidence that your salvation if in fact is real or credible. How can people feel peace with that and who draws the line as to what qualifies that you’re saved again. Also just weird comments like meditation is mostly satanic! Also like already mentioned “tongues is preferred by God”, like a higher level or something but to me it is one of the spiritual gifts and God gives you certain ones that He wants you to have. That is something I was actually taught. Also just some “out there ” beliefs on healing. That’s another topic I would love to be instructed in. One more this pastor who is rather new to the faith and chooses to get a business degree instead of attending seminary and being biblically sound was instead taught by a previous pentecostal church how to be a pastor. And he’s occasionally rude and sarcastic to me and sometimes targets me. Sorry so many questions. I thirst for the truth.

    • Tony says:

      Renee:

      Thank you for your comment! I’ll address each point individually.

      Losing your salvation is an in-house debate. Some Christians believe that you can be saved and then be unsaved. Some Christians believe you can’t ever be unsaved. Having grown up in a tradition that teaches that we can, I’m familiar with the idea. Having been a licensed minister and being a theology nerd and attending (currently) a church that teaches we can’t, I’m also familiar with the other side of the debate. If you want my thoughts, you’re welcome to them. I would not consider this – on its own – an issue worth dividing over. We can – and should – have fellowship in spite of different viewpoints on this question.

      Being at peace is important. I hear you. For those from a tradition that teaches we can’t lose our salvation, one might feel that way. I suppose the uncertainty you speak of would be worse when it’s accompanied by an extreme form of unbiblical teaching that focuses on what’s commonly called “Christian perfection.” I never felt such uncertainty growing up, as I never felt – and was never taught – that simply sinning would break my relationship with God. That is a tragic and unbiblical way to think, and it’s foreign to my experience. I likely had as much peace as my brothers and sisters from other traditions, or more… but I wasn’t concerned about becoming unsaved in the next few minutes. What I’m trying to say is that one can have a biblical perspective, believe that one can lose their salvation, and still have the peace of mind that comes from understanding how gracious God is, and patient, and forgiving. It’s generally less of an issue for individuals, and more of an issue for people who like to compare their own beliefs with the beliefs of others. Speaking of comparison: those who think they can lose their salvation have an equally-erroneous view of those who think they can’t… that it’s a license to sin. We do see that in the extremes, but not in the everyday lives of followers of Jesus.

      Meditation is often seen negatively in various traditions. This is not an uncommon idea among the various groups in the ‘holiness tradition.’ They want to avoid anything that will endanger their relationship with God (which is good), so they tend to be more cautious than some others. Most eastern forms of meditation are about clearing your mind, thinking nothing, and becoming one with the universe. It’s certainly religious in nature, as most have practiced it throughout history. Biblical meditation is basically the opposite, where one thinks deeply about important things, and especially about God and Scriptural ideas. When one sees these as opposite ends of a spectrum, it makes sense they would want to avoid one kind, and seek the other.

      Tongues is a topic that often generates more heat than light. Having attended more than one Pentecostal church, this is something I’ve spent time on. The idea that everyone who is saved will speak in tongues is, without question, unbiblical nonsense. There’s also no question that tongues is given a bit more weight in Scripture than some other gifts. However: the idea that one would elevate another person on the basis of their gifts is entirely unbiblical. We all should want whatever gifts the Holy Spirit wants to give us, and we should all use our gifts as He intends: for the building up of the Body of Christ. There should be no pride involved. Unfortunately, in my experience, too many Pentecostal and Charismatic churches allow nonsense and abuse to go on in every church service. I caution people to stop worrying about which gifts you have… to simply ask God to give you what He needs you to have so you can accomplish the tasks He has for you to accomplish, and leave it at that. We should focus on giving, not on receiving. So many focus on studying the gifts without also thinking about wise ways to use those gifts. That’s a self-centered approach, and the opposite of what Jesus taught.

      Healing is where the conversation often turns ugly. Why? Because so many have built an unbiblical foundation for their faith on top of false beliefs about healing. Any honest reading of the New Testament reveals that healing sometimes happens, and sometimes doesn’t. Any honest assessment of what God will and will not do includes the fact that Christians die all the time, from natural causes and diseases and accidents. The most prominent errors about healing come exclusively from the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions, which is where pretty much 100% of the NAR and Word of Faith charlatans are. While I wouldn’t separate from any individual believer who is in error about healing, I could not worship long-term with a local congregation that teaches that our physical healing is paid for in Jesus’ atonement. The rest of their theology is almost certainly going to be off-base as a result.

      Credentials are important… kind of. There’s nothing wrong with pastors not having theology degrees. Many around the world, and most throughout history, have not. I place great value on such education, but not on the degrees. Many of the men and women I took theology classes with have walked away from the historic Christian faith. Some are now atheists. Some are heretics (I say that in a technical sense, not as a personal attack). The degree simply points to having completed a certain group of classes, and has nothing to do with one’s actual beliefs or practices. The credentials that matter are found in the New Testament. Anyone with those credentials is qualified to teach, and anyone without them is not. It’s that simple. Christians – including those in vocational ministry – should never rely on their own authority, but on the authority that comes from teaching responsibly from Scripture, where we find the gospel that was handed down once for all.

      Targeting is a mixed bag. Personally, I would never target anyone negatively from the pulpit… only positively. In a small group setting, where people know each other well, I might do a little teasing from time to time… but never to anyone who might be hurt or embarrassed, and never in the presence of those who might misunderstand. Fellowship can often include an admission of our foibles, but never in a demeaning way… and personal correction should always be done in private. If what your pastor is doing bothers you, he may not realize it. I would suggest simply pointing it out to him (in private, maybe with one friend). I might say something like this: “Pastor, I feel uncomfortable when you single me out and say negative things. I realize you might not know that’s how I feel, so I thought I’d let you know that it makes me very uncomfortable.” His response should be to apologize, and to change his behavior. Be patient with him, but don’t allow him to negatively affect your relationships with others in the congregation. That IS a reason I would separate from someone.

      Thirst for truth: is awesome. I sincerely appreciate your questions, and the opportunity to try to be helpful. I’m available if you want to chat more, even for simple things. That’s part of what it means to be in God’s family. If you belong to Jesus, you belong to me… so don’t hesitate to reach out.

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