I was contacted by the pastor of a church, requesting help with drafting a position paper against the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). This church, like so many others, had experienced disunity and decline due to the introduction of NAR teachings. Now that the church is moving forward in a healthy direction, he and the elder team felt that adopting a formal position paper would clarify the church’s stance on the NAR and ensure that NAR teachings don’t rear their destructive effects again in the future.
I’m heartened to see church leaders take such a firm stand against the NAR in a time when the theological convictions of many other churches have waned. Would that other churches follow suit in disassociating themselves from these aberrant teachings.
To that end, I’ve shared the boiler plate position paper I wrote. I make it available below for other churches and Christian organizations to consider adopting for their own use. If you are a pastor or serve in another position of church leadership, consider bringing this paper before your leadership team for discussion, fine-tuning if necessary, approval, and adoption.
A Statement on the New Apostolic Reformation
This statement has been established by [insert name of your church] in response to the growing concerns about the teachings and practices of the New Apostolic Reformation movement, also known as the “apostolic-prophetic movement” and the “apostles and prophets movement.” The original document upon which this position paper was based came from that posted on Spirit of Error’s website (http://www.spiritoferror.org) and has been modified for our church’s specific use to address the issues in our midst.
The New Apostolic Reformation is a rapidly growing movement of individuals, churches, and organizations that share belief in present-day prophets and apostles who govern the church and reveal new truths that all Christians need to release miraculous power on earth and to advance God’s kingdom. Leaders in this movement teach that New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) prophets and apostles share similar authority and functions with the Old Testament prophets and Christ’s apostles. These beliefs contrast sharply with those of the majority of Protestant Christians, who believe there are no prophets or apostles today who possess the same level of authority as the biblical prophets and apostles. Closely associated with the NAR movement are teachings and practices such as strategic-level spiritual warfare; spiritual mapping; prayerwalking; corporate fasting initiatives; the Seven Mountain Mandate; prophetic evangelism (including “Treasure Hunting”); “Sozo ministry”; classes teaching people how to work miracles (such as prophesying and healing people); and the establishment of supernatural schools of ministry, healing rooms and 24/7 prayer rooms.
The NAR is experiencing explosive growth in the Global South—Africa, Asia, and Latin America—and is also fast growing in the United States. Since the NAR is a movement, and not a formal organization, there is no official list of leaders or organizations. Some of the most influential U.S. leaders include Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in Redding, California), Kris Vallotton (Bethel Church in Redding, California), Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri), Lou Engle (The Call), Cindy Jacobs (Generals International), Dutch Sheets (Dutch Sheets Ministries), Rick Joyner (MorningStar Ministries In Fort Mill, South Carolina), Randy Clark (Global Awakening), Jane Hansen Hoyt (Aglow International), and Cal Pierce (Healing Rooms Ministries). In addition to these NAR leaders who are well-known nationally, many other apostles and prophets are known regionally, in specific cities and states, where they directly govern churches or are invited into churches to teach, prophesy, and recruit participants for various NAR outreaches and initiatives.
Some people have linked the NAR with charismatics or classical Pentecostals. NAR teachings, however, are entirely different. While NAR leaders do promote charismatic and classical Pentecostal teachings about the miraculous gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12—including the gifts of prophesying, healing, and speaking in tongues—they go far beyond promoting these as gifts; they also promote the present-day governing offices of prophet and apostle. These are formal church offices, like the offices held by pastors and elders. However, NAR apostles and prophets claim to possess much greater authority than pastors and elders. This is because pastors and elders must submit to the apostles and prophets since they are divinely authorized spokespersons for God. Also, pastors and elders govern within a single church. But NAR apostles and prophets may govern multiple churches at once. And, in many cases, the authority of these apostles and prophets extends beyond churches to workplaces, cities, and nations. Thus, NAR prophets and apostles claim to wield extraordinary authority with insufficient accountability. These claims have opened doors to abusive leadership and the promotion of harmful and aberrant teachings that have caused spiritual harm to countless individuals. They’ve brought division and disunity to many families and churches.
1.) We reject the teaching that present-day apostles and prophets must hold specially recognized official positions in church government.
Scripture gives no indication that today’s apostles and prophets hold formal, governmental offices. The three key Scriptures that NAR leaders frequently cite—Ephesians 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, and 1 Corinthians 12:28—do not support present-day offices or say anything about governing offices at all. Other than the apostles of Christ, who held an exclusive, temporal office in the early church, the only two church offices clearly identifiable in the New Testament are elders and deacons (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).
There are at least three indications in Scripture that the governing office of apostle was temporary. First, the twelve apostles had a unique role as companions of Jesus and eyewitnesses of Jesus’ earthly ministry (Acts 1:21-22; Acts 10:39-41). With their passing, there would be no more living eyewitnesses with such authority, at liberty to add records of Jesus’ life and teachings. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas after Judas betrayed Jesus and killed himself (Acts 1:15-27). But after the circle of apostles was completed with Matthias, no attempt was made to replace any of the Twelve after their deaths. This closes the door on the emergence of additional apostles who would claim to share in their unique role as Christ’s authorized eyewitnesses.
Second, Paul—who had a unique commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16)—reasoned that he was the final apostle. For him, receiving a personal appearance from the resurrected Christ was a requirement for being a late-arriving apostle (1 Cor. 9:1). Since he was the last person to be appeared to by the resurrected Lord, he was the last to qualify for apostleship (1 Cor. 15:8).
Third, Scripture gives no instructions for appointing future apostles, and no indication that any should be recognized following the deaths of the apostles of Christ. But it does provide instructions for the appointment of elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). If God intended for apostles to govern the church in the next and every later generation, as NAR leaders claim, then surely the authors of Scripture would have made this clear.
Though others are identified as apostles in the New Testament and had important functions—including Barnabas (Acts 13:2-3; 14:4, 14; 1 Cor. 9:6), Andronicus, and Junia (Romans 16:7), and possibly others—they did not exercise the same level of authority as the Twelve and Paul.
Contrary to NAR teachings about prophets, there is no evidence that New Testament prophets held governing offices in the early churches. There are no examples of the appointment of prophets, nor are instructions given for appointing prophets to office. Given the Bible’s silence on the topic, it’s likely that the prophets spoken of in the New Testament did not govern. Therefore, there is no scriptural support for a present-day office of prophet.
- We affirm that the Bible testifies to Elders (referred to variously as “Overseers,” “Elders,” “Shepherds,” and “Pastors”) and to Deacons as the two offices explicitly mentioned in Scripture for church governance.
2.) We reject the teaching that present-day prophets and apostles are revealing to the church “new truths,” also sometimes referred to by other terms, including “present truth,” “present-day truth,” and “strategies.”
Prophets and apostles today do not reveal new truths—that is, they do not reveal new teachings or practices that are essential for the church to fulfill God’s will on earth and to advance His kingdom. Some of the new truths that have been revealed by NAR prophets and apostles include the need for the church to participate in specific corporate fasts or prayerwalks, and to launch 24/7 prayer rooms. Yet all teachings and practices that are essential for the health and success of the church can be found in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Once the truths of the Christian faith were preserved in Scripture, Christians weren’t to expect new truths from future prophets or apostles. Rather, they were supposed to safeguard the truths that had already been revealed—once and for all (Jude 3). The apostle Paul urged his pupil Timothy to take the teachings he had learned from Paul—the apostolic teachings—and “entrust [them] to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Notice that Paul didn’t tell Timothy to look for new truths from prophets or future apostles. He instructed them to recall truths already revealed through the apostles of Christ. There is no biblical support for the NAR teaching that contemporary prophets and apostles can reveal new truths.
- We affirm that the Bible—consisting of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments—is the church’s supreme and final authority in all matters of faith and conduct. As such, we affirm its primary role in establishing the belief, practice, and mission of the church—both universally and locally.
Because of these significant theological disagreements, it is the position of the leadership at [insert name of your church] that we cannot support, endorse, recommend, introduce, or follow the positions or teachings associated with the NAR movement. Furthermore, we will not support the use of books, Bible studies, small group studies, sermons, conferences, music, or speakers utilizing sources with direct or indirect ties to the NAR movement.
 For a detailed examination and evaluation of the New Apostolic Reformation’s teachings, see R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, A New Apostolic Reformation? A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement (Wooster, OH: Weaver Book Company 2014).
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.