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Devotionals

Understanding The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)

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"4. New Ministry Focus - Many traditional churches are heritage driven. "We must get back to our roots. We need to pray for renewal" - meaning that we should once again be what we used to be. The founders of the movement are often thought of as standing shoulder to shoulder with the twelve apostles. On the other hand, new apostolic church leaders are vision driven. In a conversation with a new apostolic senior pastor about his church, I once asked, "How many cell groups do you have?" I think that was sometime in 1996. He replied, "We will have 600 by the year 2000!" I can't seem to recall ever finding out how many cells he did have in 1996. As far as the pastor was concerned, though, that apparently didn't matter at all. In his mind, the 600 cells were not imaginary, they were real. The 600 was what really mattered." -- C. Peter Wagner

Most NAR churches are obsessed with the false notion of revival, loosely based on their dominionist agenda. This was not however a part of Wagner's vision. In his answer here however we see two crucial beliefs within the NAR. One is preparing for the church to come, not the one you have. Part of the vision casting taught through the PDC is for pastors to staff, build and project for more people than currently attend. Under the guise of faith, pastors constantly put themselves in a hole they have to try and dig out of seeking more and more money. The second thing to note here is the emphasis on cell groups, which is a critical part of the PDC. In order for the pastor to become the vision casting CEO-Dude, he can no longer shepherd. Wagner shared Warren's vision of cell groups being the primary and only church activity other than the Sunday service. No more men's ministry, women's ministry, or any ancillary ministry. The flaw in this system is if you starve all the sheep of the Gospel, who is leading these groups? Maybe in a church of 200 you can find a solid 10 people but when you have 2000 people, what to do? My old church had 50 cell groups at the height of the ministry and maybe ten had leaders who could handle the assignment but the other forty had no place in leadership whatsoever. Not to mention, sheep do not feed themselves. This transfer of responsibility from the pastor to the sheep still does not work to this day.

"5. New Worship Style - Worship leaders have replaced music directors. Keyboards have replaced pipe organs. Casual worship teams have replaced robed choirs. Overhead projectors have replaced hymnals. Ten to twelve minutes of congregational singing is now 30 to 49 minutes or even more. Standing during worship is the rule, although a great amount of freedom for body language prevails. As you scan a new apostolic congregation in worship, you will likely see some sitting, some kneeling, some holding up hands, some closing their eyes, some clapping their hands, some wiping tears from their eyes, some using tambourines, some dancing and some just walking around." -- C. Peter Wagner

The seeker friendly machine discovered early on that goats did not like traditional hymns because they focused on Jesus and their need to repent of their sins. These are considered anathema amongst those circles and the PDC, so it is not surprising that Wagner followed suit. Instead of congregational singing focused on God we now have a free for all, where self-expression is paramount. How many times have we heard the refrain not judge people by how they worship? Tambourines, flagging, fluorescent clothing used in dance ministries all thrived under this new paradigm and soon the contemporary music followed suit. Worship songs now worshiped the created instead of the Creator. Hillsong, Planet Shakers and Jesus Culture started filling the airwaves with vapid, insipid songs whose theology was so shallow that it helped support the vacuous sermonolgy that was taking place. Instead of singing how great thou art, we now sing how much He loves us -- as if that was worship. Along with this came the over-sexualization of worship music from places such as IHOP, where one could no longer tell the difference between a secular love song and a song allegedly about God. This is not about old versus new, as there are plenty of new worship music the glorifies God. The vast majority however is not a change in style as much as it is a change in substance.

"6. New Prayer Forms - Prayer in new apostolic churches has taken forms rarely seen in traditional congregations. Some of this takes place within the church and some takes place outside the church. New apostolic leaders have been among the first to understand and put into practice some of the newer forms of prayer that take place in the community itself, not in the church. For many, praise marches, prayer walking, prayer journeys and prayer expeditions have become a part of congregational life and ministry. For example, 55 members of one local church, New life Church of Colorado Springs, recently travelled to Nepal, high in the Himalayas, to pray on-site for each of the 43 major, yet-unreached people groups of the nation." -- C. Peter Wagner

As part of the word faith heresies, the NAR embraced early on this notion of a shift in prayer. IHOP for example created a 24-7 prayer and worship station on their campus and people were called into such ministries where they would spend hours in prayer each day. While there is nothing wrong with focused prayer, this notion became a source of pride and arrogance within the Charismaniacal circles. IHOP embraced and still does, contemplative prayer and many practices of eastern mysticism. Contemplative prayer is embraced beyond IHOP as well with well known preachers like Beth Moore championing it. While there is nothing wrong with the concept of a prayer walk per se, it becomes a dangerous breeding ground for self-focus. No to mention, there is no need to physically be around what you are praying for. God is everywhere; we do not need to be. I am sure the trip to Nepal was lovely, but couldn't God hear those prayers from the sanctuary just as easily? So much of the NAR delivery is narcissistic. The worship is about us. The sermons are about us. The church marketing is designed toward us. The dance, flagging and even the expression of the gifts have contributed to a showy-look at me spirit. When we walk through neighborhoods in full expressive prayer we must ask ourselves who we are really doing it for.

"7. New Financing - New apostolic churches experience relatively few financial problems. Although no vision-driven church believes it has enough resources to fulfill the vision adequately, and although financial crises do come from time to time, still, compared to traditional churches, finances are abundant. I think at least three discernible reasons explain this situation. First, generous giving is expected. Tithing is taught without apology, and those who do not tithe their incomes are subtly encouraged to evaluate their Christian lives as subpar. Second, giving is beneficial, not only to the church and its ministry in kingdom of God, but also to the giver. Tithes and offerings are regarded seeds that will produce fruit of like kind for individuals and families. Luke 6:38, which says that if we give, it will be given to us in greater measure, is taken literally. Third, giving is cheerful. It is not yet a common practice, but I have been in new apostolic churches in which the congregation breaks out into a rousing, athletic-event kind of shouting and clapping the moment the pastor announces he is collecting the morning offering. They are cheerful givers and they want everyone else to know it. I rarely hear the complaint in new apostolic churches I often hear in traditional churches: The pastor talks about money too much." -- C. Peter Wagner

I think what we see here is the vision Wagner had hoped for regarding NAR churches. The reality is that many have multi-million dollar deficit problems that arise from always budgeting for the "church that is to come." NAR churches frequently complain about giving and many have abusive tithing preachers such as Robert Morris at Gateway Church. The rousing applause at the notion of giving was tried for several years at the church I used to attend and while it originally was sincere, it eventually felt forced and contrived. Perhaps the most telling line here is that the NAR, through the PDC taught people that their Christian lives would be subpar if they did not tithe. At my old church, the new pastor stripped hundreds of people of their memberships overnight, without warning, due to unacceptable levels of tithing. Never mind if they had been there for several decades. Never mind that they did not claim their donations for tax purposes. I counselled couples who had been told by their pastor that they were not conceiving a child because they were not tithing as they should. A woman in Kenneth Copeland's church was diagnosed with cancer and instead of seeking treatment she just upped her tithe until the cancer killed her. The NAR set up a system of cult of personality pastors who get paid big. They turned an Old Testament agrarian system into a blessing machine. Anything positive in your life is attributed to your giving and anything negative to your lack of giving. Some of the more greedy-advanced NAR churches like Elevation and New Spring created a "tithing challenge" where people give for three months and if not satisfied with the return on investment, did not have to give anymore. Just like any good pyramid scheme.

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Submitted on Monday, Oct 28, 2019 at 8:24:47 PM

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