‘Apostles’ From Well-Known Ministries

May 14, 2007

I just finished reading C. Peter Wagner’s new book, Apostles Today (Regal Books), and plan to comment on it in upcoming posts. In this book, like Wagner’s past books, he argues that modern “apostles” have an extraordinary amount of authority that Christians must submit to — or else be outside of God’s will.

Though I will address this teaching more in a future post, the reason I mention it now is because I recently saw a discussion board where people were praising the New Apostolic Reformation. Someone had posted a statement from my blog where I said that this movement promotes apostles with unquestioned authority and prophets who give new doctrinal revelation not found in Scripture. Someone responded and said my statement was untrue. Yet, my statement is true, and I will continue to show — from Wagner’s own writings and from other leaders in the movement — what they teach about modern “apostles” and “prophets.”

In this post, I want to briefly point out leaders of some well-known ministries who are members of Wagner’s “International Coalition of Apostles.” Many Christians may be surprised to learn of these leaders’ affiliation with Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation. Their participation shows the movement’s growing influence in the church. Some notable members include:

Notable ICA Members

• Chris Hayward, president of “Cleansing Stream Ministries,” based in Van Nuys, Calif.
• Jane Hansen, president of “Aglow International,” based in Edmonds, Wash.
• Dick Eastman, international president of “Every Home for Christ,” based in Colorado Springs, Colo.
• Hal H. Sacks, founder and president of “BridgeBuilders International Leadership Network” in Phoenix, Ariz.
• Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, and Stephen Strang, founder of Strang Communications (publisher of seven Christian magazines, including Charisma).

See the full list of members of the International Coalition of Apostles here.

Cleansing Stream Ministries
Cleansing Stream Ministries has “deliverance ministry teams” in over 2,500 U.S. churches and over 500 churches in other countries. Many of these churches wouldn’t consider themselves part of the New Apostolic Reformation or even know about this movement. Upcoming retreats led by Cleansing Stream are scheduled at many churches, including “New Life Church” in Colorado Springs, Colo. (Ted Haggard’s former church) and “The Church on the Way” in Van Nuys, Calif. (the church Jack Hayford founded). See the full list of Cleansing Stream retreats here.

One of Cleansing Stream’s books that they use with their teaching materials is written by “prophet” Chuck Pierce, and Cleansing Stream links to Wagner’s Web site from theirs. When one understands that Cleansing Stream president, Chris Hayward, is a member of Wagner’s International Coalition of Apostles, the reason for the organization’s promotion of New Apostolic leaders becomes clear. Apparently, Hayward has bought into Wagner’s movement. Unfortunately, through Cleansing Stream many people will be unwittingly introduced to New Apostolic teachings.

‘Aglow International’ and Others

The same goes with Aglow International. Its international advisors include prominent “apostles” and “prophets” like Che Ahn, Rick Joyner, Cindy Jacobs and Wagner. See the full list here. And Charisma magazine regularly features favorable articles on modern “apostles” and “prophets” (like Wagner and Pierce), which is no surprise given both the editor and publisher’s memberships in the International Coalition of Apostles. Many Christians also would probably be surprised to learn of the involvement in the movement by Dick Eastman (Every Home for Christ).

Of course, many Christians have probably been saved or otherwise blessed through their involvement with these ministries and have no knowledge of the leaders’ involvement with the New Apostolic Reformation. My point in mentioning their membership in the International Coalition of Apostles is not to pick on them or disparage their entire ministries. It’s to show how this movement is expanding its reach — and to show the importance of informing more Christians about this movement so they won’t be misled into its aberrant teachings.

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Unfair Caricature?

May 4, 2007

As I was reading through old comments on my blog, I saw that one poster said I took the most extreme examples of error on the fringes of the apostolic-prophetic movement and unfairly applied them to the whole movement. I want to respond to this charge.

First, I want to be clear that the apostolic-prophetic movement is a huge, worldwide movement made up of many different people and strands of thought. I don’t believe that all Christians who are part of this movement are equally in error.

I define the apostolic-prophetic movement as a charismatic Christian movement that is seeking to restore apostles and prophets in the church. Historically, Protestant Christians have believed that apostles and prophets who give new doctrinal revelation have ceased and that the Bible is our sole source of doctrine.

While the apostolic-prophetic movement is seeking to restore apostles and prophets to the church, not all people in this movement view modern “apostles” and “prophets” in the same way. Many believe that “apostles” are simply gifted, visionary leaders who have a strong, evangelistic calling to a specific geographical region or people group (like church planters) and that “prophets” simply have the New Testament gift of prophecy. My blog isn’t critiquing people who define “apostles” and “prophets” in this way (though I do think the terms can create confusion when not clarified).

C. Peter Wagner headshot But others in the apostolic-prophetic movement believe that “apostles” and “prophets” are giving new doctrinal revelation to the church (new teachings not found in the Bible) and that all Christians must submit to the “apostles” and “prophets” — in fact, the whole world must submit to them. A well-known supporter of these teachings is C. Peter Wagner (pictured here). He calls the apostolic-prophetic movement the “New Apostolic Reformation.” I may also start using this term to clarify which part of the movement my blog is critiquing — the part that shares Wagner’s unorthodox views of apostles and prophets.

Charisma Cover, May 2007 I’ve talked about Wagner in past posts, so I won’t go into much detail on him now other than to say that he’s a former professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, he’s written many books on the New Apostolic Reformation, and he leads several influential organizations of “apostles” and “prophets” — including the “International Coalition of Apostles” (ICA’s Web site) and the “Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders” (see the ACPE’s “Word of the Lord for 2007”). Some of the well-known “apostles” and “prophets” in these organizations include Chuck Pierce, Cindy Jacobs, John Kelly, Dutch Sheets and Steve Shultz (founder of Elijah Rain magazine and the “Elijah List,” a Web site that e-mails prophecies daily to more than 130,000 subscribers). These people are becoming very influential in the U.S. charismatic movement and are regularly featured in Charisma magazine. See the current issue (pictured here), which has Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets shown on the cover.

My blog focuses mostly on Wagner’s circle of “apostles” and “prophets.” I realize that some people in the apostolic-prophetic movement are concerned about Wagner’s teachings and oppose them. But his teachings aren’t on the outer fringes of the movement — as the poster on my blog claimed. They represent a prominent and growing force within the movement.


Bill Hamon’s Dangerous Doctrines

March 13, 2007

Bill and Evelyn Hamon You may never have heard of Bishop Bill Hamon, but you should know who he is. This man (pictured here with his wife, Evelyn) is one of the most influential “prophets” in the apostolic-prophetic movement, which has entered many charismatic churches — the fastest-growing churches in the world according to church growth researchers.

Hamon’s also one of the most influential charismatics in general — attending the invitation-only “Charismatic Leaders Council,” sponsored by Strang Communications (publisher of Charisma magazine), Jan. 15-16, in Lake Mary, Florida. Yet, Hamon’s teachings are some of the most unorthodox teachings in the church today.

Hamon’s Teachings
Hamon teaches that Christ can’t return to earth until Christians form a “militant” army — under the leadership of modern apostles and prophets — that will physically subdue the earth and start to establish God’s kingdom in the earth’s governments. Hamon compares this army to the Crusaders, who he describes as the church’s only bright lights during the Dark Ages.

Apostles. Prophets and the Coming Moves of GodGod’s end-times army will achieve victory, in part, by striking God’s enemies with blindness and calling down natural disasters on them — causing entire nations to convert to Christ, according to Hamon. The apostles and prophets will be so powerful that Christians who come into their presence with sin in their lives will be struck dead. All members of the army will become sinless and extremely powerful — as they become more and more enlightened through new doctrines given by the apostles and prophets — finally attaining their own immortality (this is Hamon’s unorthodox take on the rapture). See these teachings in Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God (pictured here).

Hamon’s Influence in the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement
C. Peter Wagner The apostolic-prophetic movement’s most prominent leader may be C. Peter Wagner (pictured here). Yet, Wagner admits that he got many of his views from Hamon, calling Hamon one of his “closest prophetic colleagues” and confessing his great admiration for Hamon (see page 11 of Wagner’s book Changing Church and the foreword Wagner wrote to Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God).

Many in the apostolic-prophetic movement regard Hamon as one of the most influential “prophets” today, and those who’ve endorsed his books include Oral Roberts, Tommy Tenney, Cindy Jacobs, Emanuele Cannistraci, David Cannistraci, Earl Paulk and Ed Silvoso.

Background on Bill Hamon
Prophets and Personal Prophecy As the founder and bishop of Christian International Ministries Network based in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, Hamon oversees over 600 churches in 19 countries (see the list here), and he’s authored several books that have been influential in the apostolic-prophetic movement, including Prophets and Personal Prophecy (pictured here). He conducts popular seminars that teach people how to prophesy. (I attended one at the Azusa Street Centennial in Los Angeles last April, and the line of people went out the door. His questionable methods for “activating” people into prophetic gifting are topics for another post.) He also founded Christian International School of Theology, from where he earned his own two degrees: a bachelor of theology and a master of theology. According to his Web site, he also was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree in 1973 from an unnamed “national university,” which was when he assumed the title “Dr. Hamon.”

Hamon also serves on the faculty of the Wagner Leadership Institute, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Prophet-Apostle Hamon
In addition to the titles “Bishop” and “Doctor,” Hamon calls himself “Prophet-Apostle.” In fact, he believes God has chosen him to restore doctrines that the church lost through the ages and to reveal new doctrines and final assignments.

Many of Hamon’s doctrines can’t be found in the Bible — but this doesn’t concern Hamon, who teaches that modern “apostles” and “prophets” give the church new doctrines that supplement those given by the original apostles and prophets. In Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, Hamon says:

“He [Paul] also reveals that this anointing for divine revelation was not just given to the prophets of old but has now been equally given to Christ’s Holy Apostles and Prophets in His Church” (page 140).

This teaching — that new doctrines are needed to supplement Scripture — is a mark of the cults of Christianity, like Mormonism. In contrast, Protestants believe that Christians get their teachings from the Bible alone, which God revealed through the original prophets and apostles.

Hamon’s New Doctrines vs. the Bible
While Hamon claims that his new doctrines supplement Scripture, they also contradict it. The revelations given by the apostle John in the biblical book of Revelation, for example, teach that the judgments against the wicked will be brought by God, not Christians, and that the rapture will be God’s means of sparing Christians from the effects of those judgments, not a means of attaining their own immortality.

‘Manifest Sons of God’ Doctrine
Hamon’s teachings are consistent with the heretical “manifest sons of God doctrine,” which teaches that a breed of super-Christians will arise and subdue the earth. Another common strain of this doctrine is that Christians are gods, whose divinity will be revealed — or using King James Language — be manifested. Read more about this doctrine here.

Supporters of this doctrine misapply the biblical teaching about the church being Christ’s body, using it to argue that the church actually becomes part of God. (See pages 266-267 of Hamon’s book Apostles, Prophets and the Coming Moves of God, where he seems to be misusing this teaching this way.) Also, in his books, Hamon capitalizes the words “Church” and “Bride” to show the church’s “union with Deity through Jesus Christ,” according to an explanatory note. Statements like these, which appear throughout Hamon’s materials, make it appear he is teaching that the church actually becomes part of God.

Of course, 2 Peter 1:4 does teach that we “participate in the divine nature,” but this refers to the Holy Spirit who indwells us, enabling us — as the passage goes on to state — to “escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” It does not teach that our nature actually becomes divine. The teaching that human beings can become divine is the same lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden.

In light of these troubling teachings, Hamon’s influence on so many Christians today disturbs me. I plan to read more of his writings and discuss more of his teachings in future posts.


Should Christians Experience the Supernatural?

March 6, 2007

Charisma cover, Feb. 2007 The February 2007 issue of Charisma magazine (pictured here) featured an article by Patricia King, titled “Living in the Throne Room. King (a “prophet” in the apostolic-prophetic movement and founder of Extreme Prophetic Television in Canada) argues that supernatural experiences — like seeing the Lord on His throne, being visited by angels, or being transported from one geographical location to another by the Holy Spirit — should be a “normal part of a believer’s experience.”

This, of course, is a big claim. If such experiences should be a normal part of the Christian’s life, then many of us — myself included — are falling far short. Yet, this teaching is common in the apostolic-prophetic movement. So, I think it’s important to consider it. After reading King’s article, I found at least five key errors in her reasoning.

Error 1: She equates these types of experiences with God’s love

Patricia King headshot The first major error King (pictured here) makes is she claims that these types of supernatural experiences should be ours because God loves us.

She starts off this argument with a correct statement. She says that an intimate relationship with God, like a marriage relationship, should include experience of His love for us. I agree. In the Bible, we see that God’s people not only had sound doctrinal knowledge about Him, but they also had a loving relationship with Him. King David’s psalms express great depth of feeling and experience with God. Unfortunately, some Christians today stress the importance of doctrine, but they undervalue the roles of experience and emotions in our relationship with God.

So, King starts off correct. But then she makes a huge logical leap. She argues that experiencing God’s love includes experiencing the wonders of the heavenly realm, here and now — including God’s throne, angels and golden streets. She says that because God loves us, “we have been invited to discover and partake of it all.”

But King can’t support this teaching from Scripture. True, the church is called the “bride of Christ.” But we’re currently betrothed to Christ. The marriage — though certain — won’t take place until He returns for us and takes us to our new home with Him in heaven. Until then, we can’t expect to experience the wonders of our heavenly home.

I’m afraid many Christians may be burdened in their relationship to God because of King’s mistaken teaching. When they don’t have the supernatural experiences she speaks of, then they may feel disheartened that God doesn’t love them or that they’re not pleasing Him. But, nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christians should expect to see heavenly scenes or experience such overtly supernatural occurences during their earthly lives.

Error 2: Her main biblical support is a passage that she quotes out of its context

In her article, King says: “Not only are we to seek Jesus, but we are to actually seek the things of the kingdom — the things of the unseen realm” (emphasis hers). To make her point, she quotes Colossians 3:1-2, where Paul urges the Colossians to “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

King’s argument hinges on this Scripture passage. But, when you read it carefully, in context, you may see that the “things above” do not refer to angels or throne room scenes. In fact, far from it — just six verses before this verse — Paul warns the Colossians about false teachers who were promoting angel worship and who were claiming to be spiritually superior because of visions they received. Colossians 2:18

The “things above” that Paul told Christians to focus on are the truths that (1) we have died to our old sinful nature, and (2) we have been resurrected to new life with Christ, which will be fully revealed at Christ’s second coming. As a result of these truths, we should no longer engage in the sinful things listed in verses 5-9, but we should do the holy things listed in verses 12 through chapter 4 verse 6.

So, the passage does not tell Christians to seek supernatural encounters — as King claims it does.

Error 3: These types of supernatural experiences were never sought in the Bible

King also fails to recognize that, in the Bible, God’s people never sought after these types of supernatural experiences.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of one instance where we have an indication that the prophets, apostles or evangelists sought out the amazing, otherworldly experiences they had. Instead, these experiences happened to them when they least expected it. Phillip was suddenly visited by an angel who told him where to go. Phillip didn’t seem to know that he was being directed to the right place at the right time to share the gospel with an Ethiopian eunuch. As soon as he finished baptizing the eunuch, Phillip found himself whisked away to another location. The angels who visited Abraham, Mary and the apostle John all showed up — seemingly unexpected. And the list goes on.

Error 4: These types of experiences weren’t typical in the Bible

King also misrepresents these types of supernatural experiences as normal occurrences in the Bible.

Yes, there are many miracles in the Bible. Yet, for the patriarchs, prophets and apostles who experienced them, they weren’t typical occurrences in their lives. Whenever Paul spoke of his Damascus Road encounter with God, for example, he always spoke of it with amazement. He didn’t treat it like it was no big deal — just another, run-of-the-mill supernatural experience.

Error 5: Supernatural experiences aren’t always from God

King, rightly, warns her readers that not all supernatural experiences are from God. Her article includes a 2/3-page sidebar, titled “Avoiding Spiritual Pitfalls,” that seeks to warn people of dangers they might encounter in the “invisible realm.” It’s good that she warns her readers of the reality of such dangers and advises them to test all their spiritual encounters by the Bible.

Although these warnings are great, I’m afraid King isn’t heeding them herself. Her Extreme Prophetic Web site and television program promote troubling “prophets” like Todd Bentley. Bentley claims to have supernatural encounters all the time. He says: “Never more than a few days go by that I don’t encounter third heaven and some kind of prophetic experience — at times it happens daily for months. Supernatural experiences have become part of daily Christianity for me.”

But one of the angels that Bentley claims visits him is an angel that was associated with William Branham’s healing ministry, according to Bentley. See Bentley’s report of the “angelic” visits here. This should concern Christians because Branham — a “prophet” in the Latter Rain movement — taught many false and heretical doctrines. See this source for more information. These false teachings include:

• Claiming that he was the angel in Revelation 3:14 and 10:7
• Claiming he was Elijah, who would precede Christ’s return
• Denying the Trinity and calling it a satanic doctrine
• Teaching that Eve had sexual intercourse with the serpent, producing human beings who are destined for hell, which is only a temporal place. But those who receive God’s seed (Branham’s teaching) are the “Bride of Christ”
• Saying that anyone who was a member of any denomination had taken the “mark of the beast”

• Giving a number of false prophecies about the end of the world
• Teaching that the Word of God had been given in two other forms besides the Bible: the zodiac and the Egyptian pyramids
• Some of his followers thought he was God or had been virgin born and, when he died in 1965, they believed he would be resurrected.
• Many of Branham’s critics believe he genuinely had a supernatural gift of healing, but that it wasn’t from God since he promoted heretical teachings

Bentley claims that, whenever Branham’s angel shows up at one of Bentley’s meetings, he gets a supernatural ability in his left hand to diagnose people’s sicknesses, and he also gets correct words of knowledge about details from their lives — just as Branham claimed. In the same article I linked to above, Bentley also talks about another troublesome “angel” named Emma, who I will address in a future post.

How can King claim to practice discernment in the spiritual realm, yet promote “prophets” like Bentley? This should alarm King’s followers.

Important Qualification
So, should we experience the supernatural regularly? My quick answer is “yes.” This may surprise you, given my above response to King’s article. But, it’s all in how you classify the supernatural. If, by supernatural, one means that we should talk with angels and take trips to heaven, then the answer — according to the biblical evidence — is no.

Yet, the Christian life is a supernatural life. First, our new birth is a major miracle — through it, we are convicted of and washed of our sins, we receive eternal life, and we are indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit who starts the work of conforming us to Christ’s image. After this initial miracle, our lives as Christians should continue to be characterized by the supernatural. Here are many types of supernatural works that Christians should consistently seek and see in their daily lives:

• Love for others, including our enemies 1 John 4:7-21
• Fruit of the Spirit, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control Galatians 5:22-23
• Conviction of sin in our lives John 16:8-9
• Gifts of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 14:1
• Assurance of our salvation by God’s Holy Spirit Romans 8:16
• Comfort from the Holy Spirit and direction to truth John 14:15-18
• Inner strength from the Holy Spirit Ephesians 3:16
• Guidance from the Holy Spirit Acts 16:6-7
• Power from God for effective ministry Acts 1:8, Ephesians 3:20, John 15
• Boldness in evangelism Ephesians 6:19-20
• Answered prayers (when they are according to God’s will) John 15:16, 16: 23-24