The Rise of the New Apostolic Reformation
The stated goal of this new movement is to eradicate denominations and form a unified church that will be victorious against evil. They have repudiated the “secret rapture” doctrine held by the majority of mainline Protestants. “Instead of escaping the earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end-times, they teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of Charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on earth.”1
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a Protestant Christian movement consisting of charismatics and Pentecostals. There is also a movement of charismatic Catholics who identify with their beliefs. The NAR is growing at a rate of nine million per year.
The recognized founder and leader of the NAR is C. Peter Wagner, former professor of church growth at Fuller Theological Seminary of World Mission. He is also founder of Global Harvest Ministries, presiding apostle and founder of the International Coalition of Apostles, and cofounder of World Prayer Center. “There is a hierarchy in the NAR that resembles the Roman Catholic Church. Once world dominion is accomplished, those at the top level will have apostolic authority over other ministries. Are you seeing the danger yet? This could mean literally thousands of ministries with so-called apostles and prophets at the helm! Every person will have an apostle or prophet to whom they are accountable. According to one source the coalition includes “several hundred apostles across the U.S. and about 40 nations, international training centers and prayer warrior communication networks in all 50 states and worldwide.”2
What makes the movement so dangerous? It is the divine mandate that they think they possess. One liberal pundit described it by sharing that the NAR has a mission to “take control of communities and nations through large networks of ‘prayer warriors’ whose spiritual warfare is used to expel and destroy the demons that cause societal ills. Once the territorial demons, witches, and generational curses are removed, the ‘born-again’ Christians . . . take control of society.”5
C. Peter Wagner gave the movement its title: New Apostolic Reformation. In 1999, he described it as follows: “the New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God at the close of the twentieth century which is to a significant extent changing the shape of Protestant Christianity around the world.”7 He further described NAR as a blanket term for churches in the Second Apostolic Age, which he says is in an “adopter phase,” meaning that many churches have not yet heard of the movement and those who have heard of it are not yet ready to participate.
John Benefiel, one of the so-called apostles of the movement, describes it not as a fringe movement but a rapidly united prayer reformation network. The movement differs greatly from the traditional Evangelical and Pentecostal movement in its makeup. Rachel Tabachnick describes the movement as “multi-racial and includes women in positions of both apostle and prophet. At first glance many of their organizations might appear as promoting the social gospel but their message is quite the opposite. While they participate in charitable activities, societal transformation is to be a supernatural event which can only take place was the demons are expelled and society is purged of evil influences such as homosexuality, religious pluralism, and the separation of church and state.”8
How Is the Movement Organized?
Some apostles, called “market apostles,” are workplace apostles. Their emphasis is evangelism in the workplace and the eventual “Christian dominion over business and finance. Os Hillman, based in Atlanta, heads the International Coalition of Workplace Ministries and Market Leaders. Apostles who are already heavily invested in business are urged to merge ministry with business.
Who are the recognized leaders in the movement? The leading apostle is C. Peter Wagner (founder of the movement); others among the illustrious group of apostles are Doris Wagner (wife of C. Peter Wagner), Samuel Rodriguez, Ed Silvoso, Jim Ammerman, Cindy Jacobs (top-ranking woman apostle), Os Hillman, Julius Oyet, Pat Francis, Bill Haman, Lou Engle, Harry Jackson, Lance Wallnau, and John Benefiel. Among the leading prophets are Todd Bentley and Rick Warren.
A number of organizations and ministries have various responsibilities. Some of those organizations are:
1. The International Coalition of Apostles (ICA) is a network of several hundred apostles in the United States and about 40 other nations formed by the convening apostle, C. Peter Wagner. Each of these apostles has ministries under him or her.
3. The International Association of Healing Ministries (IAHR) is part of the Kingdom Health Care System, an international network of healing centers headed by Carl Pierce, an apostle of C. Peter Wagner, a faith healer, and demon exorcist. According to Pierce, “Healing is the undergarment that God’s army will wear to support the armor for battle.”9
4. The International Society of Deliverance Ministries (ISDM), headed by Bill and Janet Sadduth, exists to expel demons that cause physical and emotional pain.
5. The Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability (ACEA) is an accrediting system, under the apostolic authority of Leo Lawson, which ensures that all the various organizations and ministries adhere to the ideology and goals of the NAR.
6. The Eagle Vision Apostolic Team (EVAT) is a secretive inner-circle group whose membership list is not publicized.
7. The Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI), led by Apostle Carl Pierce, is an international network of faith-healing centers.
8. The Heartland Apostolic Network (HAN), under the directorship of Apostle John Benefiel and based in Oklahoma, is a coordinating center for prayer networks in the United States.
9. The Global Harvest Ministries, the personal para-church ministry of C. Peter and Doris Wagner, is also the legal parent entity of many of the other NAR organizations listed above, including ACEA, ACKW, EVAT, ICA, ISPM, and WLI.10
History of the Movement
Toward the end of the 19th century, a new wave of revivalism growing out of the Second Great Awakening would sweep the nation, resulting in the birth of Pentecostalism, which is considered the major fountainhead for this new movement. The NAR was founded through the effort of C. Peter Wagner. Since its formation, he has developed an international network of apostles and prophets that has spawned a series of networks and organizations across the globe.
The New Apostolic Reformation sprang primarily from the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. Hector Torres traces the roots of the NAR to the beginning of the Pentecostal movement under William T. Seymour. A revival movement broke out in Azusa, California, that soon spread worldwide. Speaking in tongues and possessing a Pentecostal spirit that would radically change the structure of the Evangelical church characterized these movements. The movement was, in essence, the beginning of a process of exchange and restoration that would continue through the rest of the 20th and into the 21st century. First, “various doctrinal changes were restored to the church. Among these were prophetic Presbytery for ordination to the ministry, personal prophesy, the restoration of praise, dance, the arts, drama and different expressions such as laughter, wailing and being slain in the spirit.”11
The principles of deliverance and controversy over demon possession of believers were also re-established. In the 1970s, the church experienced restoration of the doctrine of blessing, inheritance, and prosperity of saints through faith. Torres here speaks of the prosperity gospel advocated often by televangelists, some of whom have gone to the extreme and profited financially at the expense of the gospel. In the 1980s and 1990s, the restoration of the personal prophetic word to the church, cities, and nations brought a renewed understanding of the ministry of prophecy and of its role in spiritual warfare for the end-times. Below there is a historical chronology of the movement leading to the NAR as it is traced by Torres who was quoting from Bill Hamon’s book, Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God:
|Year||Movement||Major Truth Restored|
|1517||Protestant||Salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9).|
|1600||Evangelical||Water baptism, separation of church and state.|
|1700||Holiness||Sanctification, the church set apart from the world.|
|1800||Faith healing||Divine healing for the physical body, healing in the atonement.|
|1900||Pentecostal||Holy Spirit baptism with speaking in tongues, gifts of the Holy Spirit.|
|1950||Latter rain||Prophetic presbytery, singing praises and melodious worship.|
|1950||Deliverance||Evangelistic ministry and mass evangelism, evangelism reactivated.|
|1960||Charismatic||Renewal of all restored truth to all past movement churches|
|1970||Faith||Faith confessions, prosperity and victorious attitude and life, teaching ministry re-established as a major fivefold ministry|
|1980||Prophetic||Prophetic, activating gifts, warfare praise, prophets to nations. Prophet ministry restored and a company of prophets brought forth.|
|1990||Apostolic||Miraculous signs and wonders, apostolic ministry, and unity, great harvest of souls. Apostolic ministry being restored to bring divine order and structure, finalize restoration of fivefold ministers.|
In a 2007 letter, founder C. Peter Wagner stated his views in the following way: “Our theological bedrock is what has been known as Dominion Theology. This means that our divine mandate is to do whatever is necessary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to retake the dominion of God’s creation which Adam forfeited to Satan in the Garden of Eden. Our goal, in a word, is transformation. . . . We want to see whole cities and regions and states and nations transformed to support the values of the kingdom of God. This will happen only as kingdom-focused saints become the head and not the tail of each of Lance Wallnau’s seven mountains or molders of culture. Here in America, we have done fairly well in leading the religion mountain, but not the other six.”12
The theological basis for this Dominion theology finds support in Deuteronomy 28:13, 14; Genesis 1:28; Psalm 24:1. Dominion theology proposes the view that Christians gain complete authority over the earth before Jesus comes. Charismatic Dominionists are found within the Reconstructionist camps of R. J. Rushdoony. This is the partnership of Dispensationalists and the Dominionists that projected the 17 Christian worldview documents, “The Manifesto of the Christian Church.” Charismatic and non-Charismatic covenant and Dispensational theologians have joined arms in prayer and effort to see revival, renewal, and reformation in the church and American culture. Since 1980, much of Pentecostalism has begun to adopt aspects of Dominion theology.
“Dominion theology is predicated upon three basic beliefs: (1) Satan usurped humanity’s dominion over the earth through the temptation of Adam and Eve; (2) The Church is God’s instrument to take dominion back from Satan; (3) Jesus cannot come or will not return until the Church has taken dominion by gaining control of the earth’s government and societal institutions.”13
Dominion eschatology is the examination of future events through the lens of the dominion mandate as interpreted from Genesis 1:28 and Matthew 28:19-29. The church will increase until Jesus returns and contradicts opposing views that see the church waning in influence in the last days. This view does not imply absolute dominion as in a sinless world, but a preparatory dominion as in the earth being prepared for the return of the King.
In understanding Dominion Theology, three key points must be made clear: (1) God’s covenant people take dominion of the earth—this is the main theme of every covenant God has made with humanity, and the covenant with the church is no different; (2) the covenant consists of a twofold process in which humans blessed by God are given a mandate to take dominion of the earth for purpose of blessing it; (3) the first advent of Christ created the blessed seed on the earth, namely, the church. The second coming of Jesus will take place after the blessed seed has completed the dominion process.
Dominion theology is rooted in Reconstructionist Christianity. Others have traced its roots back to American Puritanism. Peter Leithart says, “Reconstructionist Christianity is more than a resurrection of Puritanism. It is refined Puritanism, tried in the furnace of opposition and hence more consistent to the basic premises of Calvinism than seventeenth century Puritanism.”14 This writer suggests that there is the possibility of a fusion with old-time Dispensational eschatology, creating a new Fundamentalism. It appears that is precisely what has happened with the rise of the New Apostolic Reformation. There is now a fusion of Dominion Theology with Dispensationalism. This union is not equal, however, for those who embraced the secret rapture are now willing to put that view on pause and embrace a “victorious eschatology,” in which they will not be secretly raptured from the earth but will remain here to transform and rule over it.
Teachings and Roles of Apostles
One of the central teachings of the NAR is the restoration of apostles and prophets to the overcoming end-time church. These leaders will provide direction and counsel to the end-time church. Hector Torres finds support for the restoration of apostles and prophets in Acts 3:19-21, in which God promises to restore all things. He describes the last days as “a moment of refreshing revival as a result of genuine repentance. This is a necessary precursor to Christ’s coming and in order for this to happen there must be a restoration of all things.”15
Wagner speaks of a paradigm shift in traditional Christianity.18 What is this paradigm shift? Hamon explained its nature in October 1999 at a meeting of the International Gathering of Apostles and Prophets, where he says that “we are seeing prophets and apostles coming forth for a strategic reason. . . . We are being positioned to lay new foundations for the dawning of a New Kingdom Age. We are in the throws [sic] of birthing a whole new order—dispensation. . . . We are about to move from the dispensation of grace to the dispensation of dominion.”19
The Seven Mountains Mandate
This is the mandate for bringing the kingdom of God to earth and taking dominion over seven key spheres of society, including government, arts and entertainment, media, education, forms of religion, and business. The mountain of business is considered key to taking dominion over others. These seven mandates are promoted by market apostles such as Os Hillman and Lance Wallnau, who is the major motivational speaker in Africa, Asia, South America, and Europe.
One of the key theological terms is “Social Transformation.” A conference on this subject took place at Harvard featuring leading NAR apostles Lance Wallnau, Bill Hamon, Pat Francis, and Os Hillman. All four travel internationally promoting the “Reclaiming the Seven Mountains” campaign and are considered to be experts on “workplace” or “marketplace apostles.” Transformation is not a generic term to the NAR but a brand used in the title of training videos, books, conferences, and organizations. As seen in the following quotes from leading apostles, promoting social transformation equates with gaining political and societal power or “Christian dominion.” They advertise their charitable activities, but these are secondary to their primary purpose—the mandate to take dominion over society and government, which includes driving out those they believe to be literally under the control of demons.
Lance Wallnau is the motivational guru for the Seven Mountains. Speaking on Patricia King’s Extreme Prophetic Television broadcast, Lance Wallnau says, “The Seven Mountains are—it’s almost like it’s a template for warfare. Because the church so frequently does not have a language for how it goes about taking territory.”20
The Seven Mountain mandate is an NAR strategy designed to take control of the power centers of the world. The Ohio Reformation Prayer Network has an abbreviated list of these seven areas on their promotional video:
• Family: where generational blessings or curses are passed on to our children
• Education: where little truth or lies about God and His creation are taught
• Government: where evil is little restrained or endorsed
• Business: where people build for the glory of God or the glory of humankind
• Media: where events, news, information are interpreted and passed on to people through the lens of good and evil
• Arts and entertainment: where values and virtues are little celebrated or distorted
• Religion: where people worship God in “spirit and truth” or settle for religious rituals
The New Apostolic Reformation is a movement with well-organized international campaigns. The apostles speaking at Harvard all promoted the “Reclaiming the Seven Mountains” campaign. Bill Hamon, Pat Francis and Lance Wallnau spoke, for instance, at the 2009, “Give Me This Mountain” conference, advertised it with the phrase “‘Possess your promised inheritance in government, family, business, education, arts & entertainment, media and religion.’”21 The Seven Mountain mandate is the most explicit expression and implementation of Dominion Theology. These seven mountains are considered to be the pillars of society, the battlefield where a culture is won or lost. The NAR intend to train agents who will scale those mountains and conquer them for God.
Apostle Bill Hamon’s 2010 book, Prophetic Scriptures Yet to Be Fulfilled, describes the fascinating transformation of the seven mountains of culture and how every nation will become either a sheep or a goat nation. In the end, the restoration of all things spoken of by the apostles and prophets will supposedly release Jesus to return and set up His domain over all the earth.22
C. Peter Wagner states: “We have now shed our inhibitions over theologizing about taking dominion. Dominion theology is not a flashback to Constantinian triumphalism, but it is a new call to action for a triumphant Church. . . . Satan has polluted the land and cursed it. Satan has deployed high-ranking demonic powers to darken the spiritual atmosphere over society and to block the freedom of heaven flowing to earth. Both of these arenas need to be and can be cleansed spiritually. We have the tools to do it, we have the gifted personnel to do it and we have the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. It will be done!”23
“Now that we have social transformation on our evangelical agendas,” Wagner adds, “it is time for action. I regard ‘social transformation’ as the concept term. However, the action term that will best set us on the road toward that goal is ‘taking dominion.’”24
Eschatological Implications of the New Apostolic Reformation
Seventh-day Adventists are Premillennialists, who believe that this world will not get better but worse (2 Tim. 3:1-5). The social, political, economic, and spiritual conditions of the earth will deteriorate more as the end nears. The Christian Church will not be able to do anything to control this deteriorating condition. Only the dramatic intervention of Jesus can save the planet.
The preparation that the church makes is not making the planet a utopian political kingdom for Jesus to return to. The preparation of the church is the sharing of the gospel to the entire world so that everyone will have an opportunity to make a personal choice to become part of Christ’s spiritual kingdom. When Jesus was standing before the temporal rulers of the time, He said: “‘My Kingdom is not of this world’” (John 18:36). The idea of “spiritual transformation” of the church is fundamentally at odds with the “political dominion agenda” of the NAR.
Rosenberg may have overstated the case in comparing the NAR with the Taliban because the differences between the groups are much greater than the similarities. Right now the NAR is not engaged in a violent revolt against any government, using suicide bombers to kill innocent civilians, to publicly execute those who break the religious laws, or to deny women their basic human rights.
Why, then, this comparison? It lies only in the theocratic intent of the NAR and their proposed mission to combine church and state and impose their brand of religion on all. The goal of the NAR—to eliminate denominationalism and to form a unified church that will be politically victorious against evil in the last days—contradicts Adventist ideology of religious freedom and separation of church and state. How will the NAR relate to groups like Adventists that will refuse to join with their religious confederacy and also refuse to submit to their religious authority and doctrine? This movement seems to be a fulfillment of Adventism’s own understanding concerning the confederacy of apostate religious groups in the end-time that will seek to impose their brand of religion on the world.
The NAR vision of the last generation, contrary to that of Adventism, is not of those who are perfecting their characters after the example of Jesus Christ and who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the gospel to a dying world. The NAR’s version of the last generation is of militant young people (Joel’s army) who will take over the world, conquer the Seven Mountains, exorcize demons, doing whatever it takes to accomplish this task.
Os Hillman, one of the NAR’s leading prophets, has suggested that, instead of using the word Dominionism, a better choice would be influence, which comes as a result of love and obedience to God. Hillman explains: “Jesus never sought to have dominion; rather, He encouraged others to love and obey God. It is better that we avoid the word dominion in our culture today due to this word’s connotation of control and manipulation of others. It also reminds people of a flawed movement in the body of Christ called dominion theology that caused great harm to many.”26 Though Hillman may take this position in words, the vast majority of the other leaders take a different and more aggressive stance. They are quite explicit about what dominion means, and they make no apologies about it.
One of the most unsettling things about this movement is its militancy and stridency. Much of the language used to describe taking back and having dominion is devoid of the compassionate love of Jesus. A good picture of this forceful call to arms can be seen in the words of one of their prophets: “We are coming into times when passive Christianity and passive Christians will cease to exist. There is a maturity, a discipline, and a divine militancy coming upon the people of God. Those who have succumbed to humanistic and idealistic theologies, may have a hard time with this, but we must understand that God is a military God. The title that He uses 10 times more than any other in Scripture is, ‘The Lord of Hosts’ or ‘Lord of Armies.’ There is a martial aspect to His character that we must understand and embrace for the times and the job to which are now coming.”27
Trevor O’Reggio, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Church History at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, Michigan.