Lou Engle, founder of The Call and a leader in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), has been making an audacious claim to audiences in large stadiums and churches across America: that the “mantle” of the aged Billy Graham is about to fall on him and his followers. In other words, Billy Graham isn’t dead yet and Engle has billed himself as the Holy Spirit’s chosen successor to Graham. Of course, Engle doesn’t word his claim quite that directly; you have to read between the lines. Let me explain.
For those who don’t know, a “mantle,” in the NAR, refers to a special empowerment given by the Holy Spirit to a specific individual for a certain purpose. When that individual dies, the mantle can be given to another person. Think of the transfer of empowerment and leadership between the Old Testament prophets Elijah and Elisha, or between Moses and Joshua.
Billy Graham is seen, by those in the NAR, as having been given a mantle for the effective proclamation of the gospel in large stadiums. But Engle claims God has revealed to him that Graham’s mantle will soon pass, not to just an individual, but to an entire nation. And it won’t be limited to proclamation of the gospel with words; it will be a souped-up mantle for the proclamation of the gospel accompanied by miraculous signs and wonders. The ultimate result of this baton pass will be a spiritual “awakening” and the turning back of America to God. Of course, Engle, who happens to host stadium-sized prayer-and-fasting events through his organization The Call, will receive a pivotal portion of this mantle.
By positioning himself as heir apparent to Graham–one of the most widely respected and admired Christians of all time–Engle is borrowing credibility for the aberrant NAR movement. What’s more, he’s claiming to be a gatekeeper for participation in God’s end-time plans and purposes to transform America and the other nations for Christ. Namely, if you want a share in this mantle, you need to embrace NAR teachings, including the belief that God has revealed to NAR apostles and prophets, like Engle, essential new strategies for transforming the world. If you don’t embrace these new strategies, you’re not going to be a co-recipient of this mantle. In short–in line with other NAR teachings–if you don’t get on board with the new thing God is allegedly doing, you’re missing out.
The present strategy that has been revealed to Engle is the importance of the practice of corporate fasting to see a release of miraculous power on earth–that is, thousands of Christians voluntarily abstaining from eating food, or drinking coffee, or taking part in some other form of abstention, for 40 days, so they can open themselves up to the spiritual realm. He discusses this revelation in his new book The Jesus Fast: The Call to Awaken the Nations.
Most recently, Engle promoted his 40-day fast at two services last Sunday hosted by two churches in Fairbanks, Alaska: Mountain Movers of Alaska Church and Door of Hope Church–stops he made during a tour of churches throughout the state. Engle was introduced as an end-time apostle, and also called a prophet. He prophesied that Alaskan churches will play a pivotal role in bringing revival to America through their participation in an upcoming statewide evangelistic initiative called AK One Day–an initiative he has partnered with along with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Focus on the Family, YWAM, and Every Home for Christ. But to ensure that the outreach will be accompanied by miraculous power, Engle urged those present to take part in a 40-day, NAR-style fast starting on Jan. 2.
One might wonder if the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association knows about Engle’s thinly veiled claims to be a chief recipient and gatekeeper of their founder’s mantle.
Holly Pivec is the co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement and God’s Super-Apostles: Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement. She has a master’s degree in Christian apologetics from Biola University.