"The NAR represents the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation."
As Warren Throckmorton has aptly pointed out, it was one year ago today that Janet Mefferd conducted her fateful interview with Mark Driscoll. And the rest, as they say, is history…
There can be little doubt that Driscoll will be returning to the ministry. If and when he does, we can't help but wonder which 'tribe' he will be aligning himself with this time? Will it be the Association of Related Churches (ARC) or some other church planting group?
In our most recent post, Dee linked to the Prayer Force Training Guide, which is being implemented at some churches in the ARC network. The section on Spiritual Warfare (Week Nine, p. 113) was a definite red flag. As Dee explained in her previous posts, we are venturing into unfamiliar territory as we explore this corner of Christendom. But explore it we must!
In our previous post Building the ARC, we mentioned that Rick Warren's church hosted this year's ARC conference. Interestingly, one of Rick Warren's professors at Fuller Seminary has been credited with founding the New Apostolic Reformation. His name is C. Peter Wagner, whom some describe as a church growth specialist. (It would be interesting to know whether Warren and Wagner have stayed in contact over the years.)
Not only that, Wagner has written extensively on spiritual warfare. When we come across concepts such as spiritual warfare in a training guide used by churches in the ARC, we have to wonder to what extent, if any, the New Apostolic Reformation is influencing the leaders in this church planting network (ARC).
In an effort to educate ourselves about a movement that began in 2001 called the New Apostolic Reformation, we thought we would share our findings here.
Three years ago C. Peter Wagner was interviewed by NPR. After that interview, Wagner weighed in by writing an article featured in Charisma News. Here is how he described the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).
What Is the NAR?
The NAR is definitely not a cult. Those who affiliate with it believe the Apostles’ Creed and all the standard classic statements of Christian doctrine. It will surprise some to know that the NAR embraces the largest non-Catholic segment of world Christianity. It is also the fastest growing segment, the only segment of Christianity currently growing faster than the world population and faster than Islam. Christianity is booming now in the Global South which includes sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and large parts of Asia. Most of the new churches in the Global South, even including many which belong to denominations, would comfortably fit the NAR template.
The NAR represents the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation. This is not a doctrinal change. We adhere to the major tenets of the Reformation: the authority of Scripture, justification by faith, and the priesthood of all believers. But the quality of church life, the governance of the church, the worship, the theology of prayer, the missional goals, the optimistic vision for the future, and other features, constitute quite a change from traditional Protestantism.
The NAR is not an organization. No one can join or carry a card. It has no leader. I have been called the “founder,” but this is not the case. One reason I might be seen as an “intellectual godfather” is that I might have been the first to observe the movement, give a name to it, and describe its characteristics as I saw them. When this began to come together through my research in 1993, I was professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, where I taught for 30 years.
Wagner retired from Fuller Seminary in 2001 and is currently involved with Global Spheres. He has made available his article The New Apostolic Reformation at this website, and he has some interesting remarks regarding modern-day apostles. Here is what he wrote:
Apostolic governance. As I mentioned before, this is probably the most radical change. I take literally St. Paul's words that Jesus, at His ascension into heaven, "gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry" (Ephesians 4:11-12). Most of traditional Christianity accepts evangelists, pastors, and teachers, but not apostles and prophets. I think that all five are given to be active in churches today. In fact, St. Paul goes on to say, "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers…" (1 Corinthians 12:28). This does not describe a hierarchy, but a divine order. Apostles are first in that order.
I strongly object to journalists using the adjective "self-appointed" or "self-declared" when referring to apostles. No true apostle is self-appointed. First of all, they are gifted by God for that ministry. Secondly, the gift and its fruit are recognized by peers and the apostle is "set in" or "commissioned" to the office of apostle by other respected and qualified leaders.
Furthermore, Wagner had this to say about prophets in his article.
The office of prophet. Prophets are prominent in the Bible, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. As we just saw above, apostles are first and prophets are second. Every apostle needs alignment with prophets and every prophet needs apostolic alignment. One of the reasons why both should be active in our churches today is that the Bible says, "Surely God does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). And also: "Believe in the Lord your God and you shall be established; believe His prophets and you shall prosper" (2 Chronicles 20:20). I want to prosper and I want you to prosper.
C. Peter Wagner ends his article with this unsettling explanation about the structure of the New Apostolic Reformation.
Some of the authors I read expressed certain frustrations because they found it difficult to get their arms around the NAR. They couldn't find a top leader or even a leadership team. There was no newsletter. The NAR didn't have an annual meeting. There was no printed doctrinal statement or code of ethics. This was very different from dealing with traditional denominations. The reason behind this is that, whereas denominations are legal structures, the NAR is a relational structure. Everyone is related to, or aligned, with an apostle or apostles. This alignment is voluntary. There is no legal tie that binds it. In fact, some have dual alignment or multiple alignment. Apostles are not in competition with each other, they are in cahoots. They do not seek the best for themselves, but for those who choose to align with them. If the spotlight comes on them, they will accept it, but they do not seek it.
The key to this? The mutual and overriding desire that "Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!"
And, of course, the final statement leads some to believe that C. Peter Wagner is a dominionist, which he appears to deny in the wake of the NPR interview. We'll save this topic for another post.
What we find extremely unsettling is Wagner's wishy washy description of the NAR —
"the NAR is a relational structure. Everyone is related to, or aligned, with an apostle or apostles. This alignment is voluntary. There is no legal tie that binds it. In fact, some have dual alignment or multiple alignment."
What in the world does that mean? And who are the key players?
When the one who 'first observed the movement' (as he explained it) is this vague about the NAR and who is involved, it deeply concerns us. Why all the secrecy?
Finally, here is C. Peter Wagner talking about NAR in such a nondescript manner that I still don't know anything about it.
Looks like there is much they don't want us to know about the inner-workings of their organization…
In case you're as confused as we are about the New Apostolic Reformation, here is John MacArthur providing a helpful explanation. This clip has been edited, but you can listen to the entire segment here.
How interesting that this movement began the same year that Wagner retired.
Lydia's Corner: Genesis 23:1-24:51 Matthew 8:1-17 Psalm 9:13-20 Proverbs 3:1-6