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The ‘Unplanned’ influence of the New Apostolic Reformation on a box office success

On March 29, the film Unplanned debuted in packed theaters across the United States. It took fourth place at the box office for two weekends in a row, grossing nearly $12.5 million. Unplanned dramatizes a true story told by Abby Johnson, a former clinic director for Planned Parenthood. Johnson left the organization after observing, firsthand, the horrors of abortion and the booming business built around it.

I attended one of the showings and, along with the rest of the audience, was deeply moved. It’s difficult to watch, but powerful. On the one hand, I wish everyone would see it. But on the other hand, I also feel the need to give a word of caution: there is a subtle, but real, presence and influence of the New Apostolic Reformation on this film. While it does an outstanding job exposing the atrocities of abortion, unfortunately, the film will also have a negative effect – the normalization of a theologically dangerous movement.

Blindsided by Bethel

Because I was completely absorbed in the movie, I was blindsided when, seemingly out of nowhere, Kris Vallotton appeared on the screen. For those who don’t know, Vallotton is the senior associate leader of Bethel Church in Redding, California, the most prominent church in the controversial New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). He’s also one of the most influential “prophets” in NAR, a rapidly growing movement of church leaders who claim to be modern-day prophets and apostles with extraordinary authority and supernatural powers. Simply put, I did not expect to encounter NAR when I went to the movie that evening.

Vallotton’s cameo comes during one of the movie’s scenes, when the character of Abby Johnson (played by Ashley Bratcher) is narrating the movie. She explains how she and her husband felt the need to bring some spirituality into their lives. Suddenly, they are shown sitting in a church, listening to a pastor preach about the God-given value of all human life, based on Psalm 139. Then we see the pastor, who is played by Vallotton.

I began wondering why, of all pastors in America, he was chosen to play the part. Was Vallotton actually the pastor who gave the message Abby heard on that day? If he was, why was he chosen to play himself, when actors were chosen to fill the other parts? Given his high-profile role at a controversial church, he seemed like an odd choice.

Some might think I’m making too much of Vallotton’s appearance. After all, I wholeheartedly agree with him about the value of human life. Some might wonder why – even though I disagree with Vallotton about other matters – can’t I partner with him in the fight against abortion.

But my concern here isn’t about partnering with people over the issue of abortion. My concern is that Vallotton’s appearance in the film – which has been a smashing success – will lend credibility to Vallotton, Bethel Church, and the larger NAR movement they’re part of. His appearance made me look for other signs of NAR influence on the film — of which there are many. Here are other NAR fingerprints.

NAR fingerprints on Unplanned

  • One of the film’s co-producers is Fabiano Altamura, the co-founder and dean of Bethel Conservatory of the Arts at Vallotton’s Bethel Church.
  • Altamura also appears as an actor in the film along with Laura Hunt, a student from Bethel Conservatory of the Arts.
  • The movie’s soundtrack includes Bethel Music throughout.
  • Bethel Church had so much influence on the film that the film’s makers released a personalized trailer featuring a special “shoutout” to Bethel Church, delivered by the real Abby Johnson.
  • Pure Flix, the company who distributed the film, has, curiously, formed a “strategic alliance” with the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, a global network of “apostles” promoting the New Apostolic Reformation.
  • The Unplanned website, on its front page, features an ad for a companion devotional that was made to accompany the movie. Titled Planned from the Start: A Healing Devotional, the book is endorsed by multiple NAR apostles, prophets, and teachers, including the apostle Kynan Bridges, the prophet Joshua Mills, and the “soaking worship music artist” Julie True. The devotional’s author, Lorraine Marie Varela, has written another book promoting NAR spiritual warfare practices, including the issuing of “prayer directives.”
  • Take note also that endorsements from all the NAR leaders named above appear on the Unplanned film website.
  • Lorraine Marie Varela, the devotional’s author (see above) co-led a prayer and ministry team on the film set of Unplanned. Given her promotion of NAR spiritual warfare practices (explained above), one may, understandably, wonder if NAR teachings and practices undergirded the prayer she led on the set. [Updated: A few hours after I published this post, I came across the Facebook page for the official Unplanned Movie Prayer Team. A scroll through the page reveals that NAR leaders and practices played a major part in the prayer that took place on the set. For example, check out these prophetic words delivered to the film crew by a NAR prophet from Australia, Christy Johnston.]

‘Nar’-malization of NAR

The bottom line is that efforts have been underway to normalize the NAR – despite its aberrant teachings and practices. This film – as powerful and important as it is – will further the normalization. Make no mistake: the decision to include Vallotton in the film was not merely accidental or coincidental. Nothing is accidental on the set of a major film: everything – every prop, every line, every actor – is given careful consideration and planning. And the markings of NAR can be found throughout the film. The decision to include Vallotton was very intentional; no doubt, it was made to promote him and the teachings of Bethel Church. After all, Vallotton is not only a high-ranking pastor of the church where one of the film’s co-producers (Altamura) works; he’s also Altamura’s prophet.

So, when you encourage your friends to watch Unplanned, as I have done, also give them a word of caution. Be aware of its NAR connections.


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.

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20 Responses to “The ‘Unplanned’ influence of the New Apostolic Reformation on a box office success”

  1. Scott Says:

    Thanks for the NAR Bethel influence warning!
    Because of their involvement in the movie I will not go see the movie and spend my money on a movie in which Bethel and company might receive a percentage of the admission fee. The NAR self appointed prophets & apostles are deceivers and should be compleyely avoided in my opinion!
    I went and seen “Heaven is for real” and regretted it because TD jakes was involved in the production of the movie and the unbiblical controversy of the movie.

  2. Mike Says:

    The normalization of NAR practices and people over time is happening. It is like we see parts of a train wreck happening and when we tell other Christians to look they either don’t know what we are talking about or have already joined in with getting drunk in the spirit, quitting jobs to see if the “lord” will provide, word of faith beliefs causing these folks to plant seeds of money disregarding the real seeds of truth in God’s word, chasing miracles, following all these teachers of the finished work hyper grace doctrine, saying they cannot be deceived because of a wrong translation and interpretation of Matthew 24:30ish, disregarding any part of the bible that counters their doctrine such as all the warnings to the church about fallse teachers.
    At this point I expect that some will continue to wake up but masses are without fear walking into Satan’s deception.

  3. Jeff Says:

    It seems like the focus on the NAR is going too far now. No need for the nit-picking which seems to be bordering on ‘witch hunt’ in terms of sniffing out every last NAR person associated with the movie. The issue is about the life of the unborn. We should be happy that people we disagree with at least have it right on one key issue. This movie is not about NAR, and any way in which they are being “normalized” will probably only be understood/seen by those who spend their lives trying to search them out. I completely disagree with NAR theology and teachings for the record, and was surprised that Vallotton was in the movie, but praise God he is willing to go public for a good cause.

  4. Thomas Says:

    I appreciate Holly’s NAR influence warning in the movie, “Unplanned”. I plan to see the movie this week and will be looking for the things she mentioned. Thanks so much!

  5. Angela Says:

    Hi Holly, thanks for the warning, it truly is about keeping an eye on how NAR is being normalised with big companies all joining to spread dominionism and conquering the seven mountains – people may indeed watch this film and be sucked into the Bethel machine as a result… God bless, Angela, ps – I have shared your warning on rapture forums…

  6. Elizabeth Says:

    Holly, you have been and continue to be a valuable source of information regarding the error and influence of NAR. I have been wondering how to broach the topic with people with whom I am acquainted who will blindly walk in to see this movie and be unknowingly influenced by this heretical movement. Thank you for your careful attention to detail. You’ve given me talking points AND an article I can print or forward to friends. Don’t be discouraged by nay sayers! Keep standing on the truth of the Word of God!

  7. Kim Olsen Says:

    It is amazing how quickly the tenacles of cults can wrap around society. However if we remember that their 7 mountain mandate is to filter into these areas we can see their success.

    Here are the seven mountains.
    1) Education
    2) Religion
    3) Family
    4) Business
    5) Government/Military
    6) Arts/Entertainment
    7) Media

    The NAR is led by by false teachers and we need to expose them when promoted. The Gospel is tainted by their false visions and “new” revelations.

    I was also thinking about the growth of IHOP ministries. When I first started researching IHOP Kansas City, a friend who lived nearby in Liberty, MO said no one there really knew about them but those who did regarded them as cultish. Within a couple of years they were on GODTV.

  8. Tia Marlier Says:

    Thank you for sharing this warning, Holly. I appreciate your always-measured and calm approach to sharing information about the NAR. I don’t at all think you went too far about them (as one person wrote here yesterday) regarding this movie. The fact is that Pure Flix is partnering with the NAR. That is big and shocking news and if we’re discerning Christians we should be extremely concerned about any normalization of the NAR. It is disturbing and sobering to see the enemy use a film with an important godly message about the value of human life as a way to subtly spread the influence of the NAR, not to mention seeing that influence getting stronger as they move forward with their goal to take over certain “mountains” of society. We have to be watchful in this dark hour.

  9. Michelle Says:

    I appreciate this information. I thought the movie was excellent, but was bothered by the playing of the song “Overcomer” when they successfully crammed all the abortion patients in on the Friday before the hurricane so they didn’t have to work Saturday.
    We born-again Christians just have to look at it this as a good film exposing the reality of abortion & realize it’s another pseudo-Christian film with no talk of repentance or gospel message (how could there be as Abby is Catholic). As I’m not super familiar with all of the NAR movement’s idealogies, I did not pick up on those subtleties. Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  10. Doug Says:

    Thanks Holly for your discernment. Make no mistake, Bethel teaches a different Jesus, and as a result a distorted gospel message. Listen to Lindsay Davis’ testimony on apologiastudios.com/cultish -she is the Bethel student expelled because her eyes were opened to the real gospel. The three part program is called Defecting From Bethel. I agree the film is worthwhile when it comes to exposing the horrors of abortion, but Kris Vallotton going public for a good cause will make no difference on the last day when those who believe in and teach a different Jesus hear “depart from me, I never knew you’. They will lay out all their good deeds and supposed supernatural works before him, but they won’t make one bit of difference (Matthew 7:15-23). Please pray for those caught-up in Bethel or any of their false doctrines to see the light and come to the light!

  11. Darla Says:

    Another Bethel project is 2 weeks away. The first feature length film from Bethel Music Films. Releases April 22. Targeted to children and families.
    Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH4VmRiSW8M
    Website: https://brightones.com/
    Full cast & crew https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7772498/fullcredits

  12. Holly Says:

    Darla, thanks for the heads up about the Bethel film. I just posted a new blog post warning people about it.

  13. Randy Says:

    Hi Holly,
    I came across the interview you did about NAR with Doreen the ex-new ager? Very enlightening. Thank you for the discernment. It is very interesting with some who have responded, and have posted youtube videos that expose what some of these false prophets are saying have been removed off the You Tube site. So obviously, you have “poked the bear of NAR” and they are scrambling as quickly as they can to take down what is clearly heresy, unbiblical, all emotion based, focused on the soul (feelings) of people who have not been raised within a sound church biblical doctrine. Those seeking entertainment and experiencing in some cases very powerful, very real satanic/demonic supernatural experiences. As Jesus said in Matthew 24:11 about one of the signs of the last days, fits NAR perfectly…Thank you for your ministry and what you are doing to make people aware. It is even more concerning when longtime well respected conservative evangelical leaders and teachers, pastors and have been the voice of sound biblical doctrine, perhaps due to age are falling for this huge deception movement and lending credibility perhaps without them being fully aware or continuing on discerning the Word. But we are all human. I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded and have on occasions become swept up in something on the surface seems very much like Biblical Scripture, however, there is something deep within my belly (or I guess spirit) where Jesus and the Holy Spirit dwells that gives me this unsettling feeling about what I am hearing. Initially, one can’t really put a finger on it. But praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit at the core of my spirit eventually get’s through my soul of feelings and into my mind and things begin to click. Make sense? Like the movie “Unplanned.” It is powerful, can’t disagree with the message, however the subtlety of this movement inserting itself onto the big screen brings credibility to the movement. Very much as what the LDS church has done. Most people who never grew up in a church or only attended occasionally would assume the LDS is a Christian organization. However, if you take the time to take a peak behind the curtains of the LDS church their theology based upon Joseph Smith and having their own Bible which is one of four books they believe are Spirit breathed are so deceived. Nice families, nice people. One thing I’m beginning to learn and look for is if there is any movement that promotes themselves as a Christian organiztion, however, it’s based upon grace + works religion is a red flag. All false religions foundations are based upon a little grace and followed quickly by works. doing certain things one must do or perform to have assurance of their salvation. Salvation is so simple. It is grace alone and Christ alone. God Bless you!

  14. Joanne Wyatt Says:

    I wish we could just appreciate the film for what it is and not pick it apart. If you are not comfortable with it.,Don’t Recommend IT. Today it seems as though that someone is always looking to degrade something one way or another by finding fault.
    It delivered the needed message and I feel sure it had God’s blessing.

  15. Hannah Says:

    Thanks for this. I did notice Bethel’s music throughout the movie, but did not recognize there was as much influence as you pointed out. I did not know the pastor character featured was a Bethel pastor in real life. I am glad to see someone else share these things as something for us to be aware of. I definitely still support the film, as it’s such an important message, but it’s good to note that this influence serves as a way to “normalize” the NAR. However, I think we’re already there…may God continue to help us discern and walk in both grace and truth.

  16. C.G. Says:


    Just ran across your site blog when referred here from a friend. I find what you researched to have validity on this topic (and the others I have looked at).

    What disgusts me the most…..is the simple fact that NAR and other “evangelical” churches are using the pro-life movement to further their own sick agendas. As long as the dollars keep rolling in to further their cause, really nothing will change.

    NAR in the end is no different than the liberal/socialist agenda. They attempt to control the same mountain range.

  17. Angela Says:

    Thanks Darla for that warning re bethel music, have shared on rapture forums. As these NAR centres plan to increase their number, what with bethel “arise and build” and Che ahn “california dreaming” church plant initiative, we need to be more on the alert and sounding the alarm, not less!! God bless, Angela

  18. Warren Says:

    I cancelled my subscription to Pureflix for their involvement in and support of this movie.

  19. Rebecca Says:

    I don’t think the mainly Catholics who are involved in making this movie maybe even even know about any issues with Bethel. To be honest many Catholics get confused about the differences amongst Protestants. Most Protestants don’t know about Bethel and it is not like Bethels theological issues were talked about.

    I think in general the movie was trying to not get into the theological differences amongst Christians and it is probably why the took care to never mention that the 40 Days for life people who Abby befriended were Catholic.

    As for Catholics and repentance. Catholics have confession in order to convert Abby and her husband had to confess all of her known major sins. And yes pray a pray of repentance. Throughout the Mass Catholics communally confess sins. To say Catholics don’t believe in repentance is unfair.

    As for Bethel they may be confused about some things but the Lord looks at hearts as well. I don’t think our salvation depends on perfect theology.

  20. Tim Says:

    Holly, I’m a graduate of Biola and I’m a little surprised by your blog. It sounds more anti-ecumenical and anti-gifts of the spirit then anti-Nar. There are 20,000 Christian denominations so there’s definitely a lot of error out there and worth having your head up and a discerning ear open.. However, I’d research a little more. If Bethel can help produce an impactful, pro-life film, with Bethel music all over it, I think that it’s worth it for you to visit the Bethel Redding church and see how they can do this. I think you’ll find a group of Christians who love God well and love neighbor well and are okay with, and even welcome, the Holy Spirit being around.

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