Continuing with my “Highjacking Christianity” series (please click here to read the introduction), I’ll be defining what a New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) apostle is, what they do, and where they get their authority. This article will present the NAR’s claim to modern apostleship mainly using their own words to avoid accusations of “straw-manning” their position in future articles. I wish to address the NAR’s claims later in the “Highjacking Christianity” series, but that is only possible if I represent them accurately.
I will be heavily relying on the words of “apostle” C Peter Wagner, who is considered by most to be the founder of the NAR movement. He was the leader of the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (ICAL), which is the most influential apostolic organization in the NAR movement. Given Wagner’s vast influence within the NAR, his own words will sufficiently describe the NAR’s general beliefs. Admittedly, not every “apostle” and “prophet” will align with Wagner on every theological jot-and-tittle, but there is a widely held system of NAR beliefs that are held by the majority of NAR adherents. My goal is to represent their beliefs about apostleship using their own descriptions.
What is a NAR apostle?
In C Peter Wagner’s book Dominion! (page 33), he described a modern apostle as the following,
“An apostle is a Christian leader gifted, taught, commisioned and sent by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the expansion of the Kingdom of God.” [emphasis mine]
As described in A New Apostolic Reformation: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement written by R Dougal Geivett and Holly Pivec (pages 45-46), they comprehensively cite Wagner’s list of duties for an apostle,
“Here is a list of the things that any apostle will do, according to Peter Wagner:
- An apostle will receive revelation (directly and from prophets).
- An apostle will cast new vision for the church (based on the revelation the apostle has received).
- An apostle will govern within the church.
- An apostle will “birth” new ministries.
- An apostle will lead the church in spiritual warfare.
- An apostle will teach.
- An apostle will impart God’s blessings in others (including spiritual gifts).
- An apostle will initiate and carry out projects by strategizing and fundraising.
- An apostle will complete projects by bringing them to desired conclusions.
- An apostle will equip others for ministry.
- An apostle will send out others who are equipped to fulfill roles in expanding the kingdom of God.
- An apostle will raise up future leadership.
Here is a list of things that are true for many, but not all, apostles. They will:
- have seen Jesus personally;
- perform supernatural manifestations, such as miraculous signs and wonders;
- expose heresy;
- plant new churches;
- appoint and oversee local church pastors;
- settle disputes in the church;
- impose church discipline, including excommunication;
- provide “spiritual covering” (counsel and correction) for other leaders;
- suffer physical persecution;
- attract and distribute financial resources within the network of churches;
- minister cross-culturally;
- fast frequently;
- take back territory from the enemy and transfer it to the kingdom of God;
- cast out demons; and
- break curses of witchcraft”
The NAR belief is that God sent apostles to specific “spheres of ministry” with “authority” to establish the “foundational government of the church” and carry out the duties listed above. In addition to holding offices with God-given authority, apostles are also given unique access to divine revelation according to Wagner in his book Apostles Today (page 81),
“Whereas every believer can and should hear directly from the Holy Spirit, it is only the apostles, in proper relation to prophets, who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Parents hear what the Spirit is saying to their families. CEOs hear what the Spirit is saying to their businesses. Teachers hear what the Spirit is saying to their classes. Pastors hear what the Spirit is saying to their church (singular). But apostles, along with prophets, are those who hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches (plural).” [emphasis mine]
Wagner supplements this description by saying (Dominion!, page 27), “Apostles take the word of the Lord from the prophets (and they also, of course, hear from God directly), they judge it, they interpret it, they strategize their procedures, and they assume leadership in implementing it.” These descriptions outline how apostles effectuate their duties from the NAR perspective.
How Does A NAR Apostle Get Their Authority?
Now that I’ve briefly summarized the NAR’s description of what an apostle is and what an apostle does, I’d like to touch upon the source of the NAR’s alleged apostolic authority. In the book A New Apostolic Reformation: A Biblical Response to a Worldwide Movement written by R Dougal Geivett and Holly Pivec (page 41), they describe the origin of an NAR apostles’ authority,
“Apostles earn their office – grounded in public recognition that they are apostles – first by demonstrating that they have the spiritual gift of apostleship. They must also demonstrate extraordinary character that is especially marked by holiness and humility. Genuine apostles need never appoint themselves to the office because others will recognize them as apostles and confer on them the office of an apostle. This conferral often occurs during a formal commissioning ceremony led by other apostles, as well as prophets…While apostles have the duty to demonstrate their gift, others have the duty to recognize it. And since an apostle’s authority comes directly from God, failure to recognize a true apostle is a serious matter.” [emphasis mine]
C. Peter Wagner elaborates further in his book Apostles Today (page 25), “On that point let me make a strong statement: To the degree that the Corinthian believers did not recognize that the Lord had made Paul an apostle, they were out of the will of God! That would have been a dangerous place to be!” (Wagner’s emphasis)
The data collected about what NAR apostles are, the generalized description of their duties, their justification for apostolic authority, and their view on Christians failing to recognize NAR apostles strongly indicate that the NAR believe 1) modern apostles and prophets are intended for today and 2) their function, scope, and authority are the same today as it was for the original Christ-appointed apostles. Given these two conclusions based on the evidence, I feel I’ve provided a charitable description of what an apostle is from the NAR perspective.
My next article will cross-examine the NAR’s claims to apostleship with scripture to determine whether these claims are Biblically consistent.