Innocuous Circus or Insidious Campaign?

By Brennan Wilson

People crave excitement. With no shortage of available streams to drink from, entertainment—and the excitement it promises—finds itself high on the list of American priorities. This reality prevails not just in the secular culture, but also in church contexts. At least one wildly successful movement of churches seems to appreciate this reality and has integrated into its services a potent dose of sensory stimuli. This movement is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).

The name may be unfamiliar to some readers, but undoubtedly the sensational events for which the NAR takes credit have received considerable exposure. Whether it’s the countless reports of miraculous healings, visitations by angelic beings, or raisings from the dead, the NAR has made some tremendous claims. One example comes from Bill Johnson, senior leader at Bethel Church in Redding, California, who wrote in Manifesto for a Normal Christian Life, “People often come to me and ask me to pray for them, that they would discover God’s will for their life. I already know God’s will for their life—heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out devils, cleanse lepers.” He continued, citing an occasion where this was put into practice: “One of the attendees from the conference [for Jesus Culture] went to a dead baby and raised it from the dead. . . . This young woman went and commanded the baby to come to life. And the baby came to life. Wow!” Other notable figures such as Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer), Rick Joyner (Morning Star Ministries), and Todd Bentley (Fresh Fire USA) also fit the template of the NAR (although they often deny any official association). Most Regular Baptists have probably brushed shoulders with the theology and ministries of the NAR at some point. So it’s important to ask the question, Is this movement a harmless group of enthusiastic evangelicals, or does it present a danger against which Bible-believing Christians should be vigilant?