The direction of today's Church follows many paths. I am literally astounded at the leniency of some church leaders who would be willing to see the "spiritualism" of an event like Burning Man on par with the experience of The Early Church at Pentecost. But then again, I am equally amazed at those who refuse to consider what the Bible has to stay about the supernatural in our Christian experience. That presents a wide spectrum in the observance of our faith. But I also truly believe that, at this time, there is an increase in the desire for knowledge about God among the Body of Christ and The Church; within that reality, it is also a time to be cautious when seeking new understanding.
In my own quest, Scripture has been my center of focus as I am trying to discern what it means to be a follower of Christ, according to the Bible. I am trying to know The Most High God in a deeper and personal way, and seek His Truth about who He is and who I am, in Him. That being said, it has become apparent to me that while other Christians are doing the same thing, there have grown new ideas of what that looks like, and new movements that have risen out of that pursuit for knowledge. Differing interpretations of the Bible have given rise to new theologies and new movements, with the result being that we must be very careful in forming our own understanding of what God's Word is saying to those of us called by His Name. And, we need to be careful to approach each other in love, when discussing our differences.
To be honest, I have tried to listen exclusively to the Holy Spirit to guide me to the truth of the Word. In that process, I have discovered that it has been necessary to discern which doctrines of the traditional Church still ring true to the commands of Jesus, and which are man-made rules that do not serve Him according to His Word. In the same manner, I see that these new movements and theologies require the same examination. And, once again being honest, I have been unaware of the "official" names of these groups and their guiding principles, because it has been my desire to quit following the ways of man, and follow the Biblical path towards Jesus. So, I am reluctant to follow any stringent rules or guidelines in order to identify with particular "movements". But I feel it is important to know what these groups believe in order to know where they stand, Biblically, and to be able to defend my own theology.
So, let's get down to the basics ... the New Apostolic Reformation Movement (NAR) appears to be a loose collection of non-denominational and independent churches rallying around a particular set of biblical interpretations. Primary to their belief system seems to be the idea that God is raising up a new order of apostles and prophets who have been commissioned by Him to affect our culture and society. Furthermore, the NAR movement teaches that because God’s intended form of church governance is apostles and prophets, their leadership status is over evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Only now, as the church is properly guided by these appropriate spiritual leaders, can it fulfill its commission from Jesus. This commission is seen as more than spiritual, as it includes cultural and political control.
If my research is correct, they believe as the church unifies behind the apostles, these leaders will develop greater and greater supernatural powers. Eventually, this will include the ability to perform mass healings and suspend the laws of physics. Prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation are almost as important as apostles. These people have been empowered to receive “new” revelations from God that will aid the church in establishing dominion. (According to the New Apostolic Reformation, only prophets, and occasionally apostles, can obtain new revelations. Evangelists, pastors, and teachers cannot). The prophets’ new revelations are crucial to overcoming the world, and the success of the church depends on the apostles following through on the information prophets provide.
On the surface, this movement might not seem too dangerous. For sure, prophecy played an important part in the Old Testament, and those prophecies have been accurately fulfilled. And, I will agree that far too many pastors ignore the Bible prophecy that exists in the New Testament; specifically Matthew 24 and the Book of Revelation. In fact we are told there are those pastors like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren who don't "feel called" to preach on the the End Times prophecies because "it frightens people and keeps them from living a victorious life right now" (Osteen); and "those who focus on Bible prophecy are not fit for the Kingdom of God" (Warren).
Here is where I stand ... Prophecy is important, and God gave us the prophecy He wants us to have and understand in Scripture (in both the Old and New Testaments). On more careful examination and discernment, I don't see Scripture telling me that God will give us new prophets in these days. And the NAR seems [to me] to put too much emphasis on man's sovereignty in bringing about the return of Jesus. It's as if they are saying our commission from Jesus is to control every sphere of influence on earth, so we can bring about a sort of Utopia that they define as the Kingdom of God on earth.
According to New Apostolic thinking, mankind lost its dominion over earth as part of the fall of Adam. So Jesus’ First Coming and His sacrifice on the cross not only resolved our sin debt, but it empowered mankind—specifically, Christians—to retake control of the earth. The New Apostolic Reformation sees seven areas in which believers are supposedly empowered and expected to dominate: government, arts, finances, education, religion, family, and media. Of these, the New Apostolic Reformation sees government as the most important because of its ability to influence all of the other facets of life. As a result, the New Apostolic Reformation overtly encourages Christian control over politics, culture, and business.
While I cannot dispute that if we modeled our lives on the way Jesus lived His, we would naturally influence these spheres, I do not see the Great Commission as a commandment to dominate these physical sectors of our society. I interpret both passages in Acts and Matthew as Jesus giving us a spiritual mission to reach the hearts and minds of people; not an earthly mission to control our culture. Notice that the power comes from the Holy Spirit, not from man ... it is a spiritual mission! That is what the Bible says.
The Bible tells us that the Kingdom of God is not based on talk, put on power (1 Corinthians 4:20); it is not brought about by man's efforts, but exists in spiritual power. Jesus, Himself, said in Mark 7:6-7, "These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men". And again, Paul tells us, "for the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking [what one likes], but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It's spiritual! We are not to involve ourselves with the affairs of the world, but to win souls (hearts, minds, emotions) for Christ! Didn't the Early Church of Acts disengage from the affairs of their world and turn to spiritual power to win the hearts and minds of unbelievers?
Who among us is not concerned about the economy and the upcoming election and the effects they will have on our physical lives and those of coming generations? And I have been hearing more talk about Pastors who have decided to challenge the "separation of church and state" that has been followed for several decades, and engage their congregations with their "moral duty" to vote "their conscience". But I have to ask you this: Is that part of our commission from our Lord? Does who is President really matter to your mission to win souls for Christ? Does your power and authority come from whoever is President ... or from Jesus and the Holy Spirit? If we are be to like Jesus, whose business must we be occupied with? This world's, or God's?
Did God give Jesus power and influence to affect the political scene in Judea and Jerusalem; did He attempt to change the educational system in the synagogues; did He engage with those responsible for the financial system among the Jews? The Bible tells us to imitate Christ, whom "God anointed with the Holy Spirit and with great power; [so that] He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with Him." (1 Corinthians 11:1). THAT IS OUR MISSION!
I want to wrap up my discussion with the hope that I have not misrepresented this movement, because I know how a word here or there can totally distort what one believes; I have been misinterpreted and misunderstood numerous times. And I sincerely believe that Christians who count themselves as adherents to the NAR movement believe they are interpreting Scripture correctly. And do I think it will affect their salvation or eternity in Heaven with our Lord? No. But, in the end, I am concerned with putting too much emphasis on changing physical situations in the world. After all, it is not the physical condition of the world that is a sign of the Kingdom of God. It is the spiritual condition of those who will receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And it is that spiritual condition of all mankind that we should be seeking to change.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”