Is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) Biblical?

What is the New Apostolic Reformation?

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a title used to describe a movement that is largely associated with the Pentecostal and the Charismatic movements. Its fundamental difference from those movements is the belief that the lost offices of church governance, namely the offices of prophet and apostle, are being restored.

Five common doctrines common to advocates of NAR:

(1) apostles

(2) prophets

(3) strategic-level spiritual warfare

(4) apostolic unity

(5) ordinary Christians as a miracle-working army.

What is Wrong with NAR Theology?

NAR teaches that a biblically ordered church will be governed by apostles and prophets.  NAR apostles claim they hold a formal office in church government like the office of pastor or elder. Except the apostle's office wields much more authority than those other offices because an apostle has jurisdiction over multiple churches and not merely oversight of a single church. And an apostle's authority can extend beyond churches to cities and workplaces, and among institutions that have no connection with the church.  They are like "generals" in an army. Prophets, on the other hand, are like "secret intelligence agents." "They know God's secret thoughts and plans and can guide churches based on their inside information."

First, "apostles" and "prophets" are spiritual gifts in the New Testament, not church offices such as "overseers," "elders," and "deacons."  Furthermore, there is a difference between "Apostles of Christ" (e.g., the Twelve and Paul) and "apostles of the churches" (e.g., Barnabas, James, Andronicus and Junia, Jesus' half-brothers, and Silas). While the latter is the modern-day equivalent of missionaries and church planters, the former is unique to the first century, having been eyewitnesses to the Resurrected Christ, and having been commissioned personally by Jesus Christ to authoritatively proclaim and (in some cases) inscripturate the gospel.

Regarding prophecy, the authority NAR doctrine gives to prophets over the lives of individuals and churches is unbiblical and potentially dangerous.

Regarding (3): "Strategic-level spiritual warfare," as NAR doctrine defines it, "is the act of confronting powerful evil spirits that are believed to rule specific regions of the world. These spirits are called territorial spirits because they control different territories, like cities and nations." NAR leaders cite Daniel 10 and Ephesians 3:10, among other passages, in support of their understanding of spiritual warfare. Specific practices associated with strategic-level spiritual warfare are "spiritual mapping" and "the Seven Mountain Mandate," whereby "the church must take control of the seven most influential societal institutions."

The Bible does not deny the existence of territorial spirits; nor does it deny the contemporary relevance of the ministry of exorcism. But the Scripture nowhere teaches believers (by precedent or by commandment) to confront territorial spirits. In Daniel 10, that job is left to Michael the Archangel. Consequently, the Bible does not support the NAR teaching that territorial spirits must be cast out of cities and nations before God's kingdom can be advanced.

Regarding (4), NAR teaches that apostolic unity occurs when the Christians in a given city unite under the leadership of apostles to transform their city.  The problem here is that NAR teachers slight doctrinal unity in favor of personal unity, where the uniting personality is a NAR apostle, even if some of that person's doctrines are heretical. (According to C. Peter Wagner, a NAR pioneer, some NAR leaders deny the doctrine of the Trinity). NAR's form of unity, then, requires allowance of teachings that are completely absent from the Bible - teachings unique to NAR. It is troubling to witness attempts at unity that minimize core Christian beliefs while demanding acceptance of doctrines with no Christian pedigree.

Finally, regarding (5), Many in NAR believe they will work miracles, like prophesying and healing the sick. They also believe they will be part of an army that will work greater miracles than the original apostles and prophets and even Jesus. This army is called by various names, including the Manifest Sons of God and Joel's Army.  Again, the biblical problem with such a position is straightforward. The Bible does not teach that every Christian is given every spiritual gift

What is Grace Community Church’s Response to the NAR?

Obviously, if someone claims that the Bible teaches X, but the Bible does not, in fact, teach X, that claim should be critiqued and declared false. I think that is the case with NAR's distinctive doctrines.

It does, however, need to be remembered that the vast majority of NAR leaders and followers are fellow Christians.  Most of those that lead the NAR are believers and genuine disciples of Jesus, and their intention is to do the will of God.  They believe in the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the Trinity (with a few Oneness exceptions), the Incarnation, and the Atonement.  Like classical Pentecostals and charismatics, they believe that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit continue to operate today.

Yet, we believe that the NAR is in error on significant doctrines, even if not all error rises to the level of heresy. 

Grace Community has never claimed any membership or part in the NAR movement. While we know and honor some ministries who are identified as being part of the movement, we honor them as we would any other part of the Body of Christ.

This means we would have differences in theology and practice with those whom we would still consider brothers and sisters in Christ. We believe in the authority of scripture and the supremacy of Jesus in all things, and we believe in the Apostle’s Creed. Our approach in relating to other members of the Body of Christ can be summed up in the common saying, expressed in various ways and attributed to various authors: in essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

Grace Community believes that today’s Church should also follow the apostle Paul’s encouragement to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1 ESV)  But prophecy is a gift, not an office.

Also, the leadership team at Grace are simply known by their first name. While we believe in honoring each other, we believe that spiritual gifts are given to serve each other so that the body comes to maturity, not so that individuals can be honored by a title or office related to their gifts.                                  

There are no individuals with the title or office of prophet or apostle within the Grace leadership team. Grace leads with an eldership team model, having no one with the title of apostle or prophet. The Grace leadership team strongly and consistently emphasize that believers must check the teachings that happen from any teacher in our congregational settings against the Bible.

Grace believes in the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit beyond the first century. We believe that believers in the Body of Christ today can operate in gifts such as healing and prophecy.

Eschatologically, Grace holds a theological view known as Historical Pre-Millennialism. This is a mainstream orthodox belief amongst Christians throughout church history. We believe that Jesus will return to earth and believe that, prior to His return, the earth will go through a great tribulation. In the midst of this trouble we believe that many believers will be what the book of Revelation terms “overcomers.” Part of this overcoming we believe is the church operating in unity with the Holy Spirit and operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit as outlined in the New Testament.

We affirm that God’s purpose is for Jesus to come back to fully establish His kingdom rule over all the earth. After the second coming, the saints will rule the earth under the leadership of Jesus Christ when He sets up His government on earth in Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom (1 Cor. 6:2; Rev. 5:10; 20:3–6). We believe that believers in this age are called to serve Jesus in many different spheres of society including politics and to help establish righteousness and justice in legislation when it is possible. We are to seek to be salt and light. However, we do not believe that most of society will be Christianized before Jesus returns. We believe that all the nations will follow the Lord and obey His Word after Jesus returns to establish His millennial kingdom.

We deny that the Church will take over all the governments of the earth before the return of Christ. In this, we would differ from others who hold to more of a triumphalist eschatology that many organs of government will become Christianized before the return of Christ.